Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele while flagging-off input distribution for the 2018 wet season farming in Cross River State recently, revealed that over 400,000 farmers had so far received its support under the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) to cultivate 12 crops that will aid food sufficiency. This is an innovative approach to ensure food adequacy, TAIWO HASSAN writes
The value addition in the CBN’s ABP in the lives of many farmers in the country and the economy in general cannot be quantified. In fact, the ABP, which is part of the CBN’s development agenda is not only targeted to create millions of jobs but also meant to lift thousands of small holder farmers out of poverty. Basically, the decision by the Apex Bank to set aside intervention fund for farmers to enhance food productivity in the country was one of the best decisions it had ever taken on the Nigerian economy. Under the programme, the CBN set aside N40 billion out of the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund given to farmers at single digit interest rate of maximum nine per cent per annum. Specifically, the CBN launched the ABP in 14 states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Zamfara, Admawa, Plateau, Lagos, Ogun, Cross- Rivers and Ebonyi for rice and wheat farmers to advance their status from small holder farmers to commercial or large growers. Then, it was therefore not a surprise that President Muhammadu Buhari pledged that the Federal Government would favour the programme because it squarely aligned with its aspiration to achieve food security for Nigeria.
Importance of ABP
The banking watchdog had said it established the ABP with a view to collaborating with anchor companies involved in the production and processing of key agricultural commodities. Speaking about the programme, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele said, “The fall in oil prices has given us a timely reminder that we have no choice but to diversify our economy away from oil, and into agriculture, manufacturing, services, and other non-oil sectors. “The “Anchor Borrowers’ Programme” is one of the CBN’s policy initiatives to pursue the aforementioned development objectives, namely the creation of jobs, reduction in food imports, and diversification of our economy. “The Programme aims at creating economic linkages between over 600,000 smallholder farmers and reputable large-scale processors with a view to increasing agricultural output and significantly improving capacity utilization of integrated mills.” He believed the initiative would close the gap between the levels of local rice production and domestic consumption as well as complement the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) Scheme of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture by graduating GES farmers from subsistence farming to commercial production.
Benefits for local farmers
The programme is designed to help local farmers increase production and supply of feedstock to processors, reduce importation and conserve Nigeria’s external reserves. Under the Scheme, anchor serves as off-takers in recognition of their track record and experience in working with outgrowers involved in production. The apex bank explained that the scheme involves a finance model whereby the anchor firms, CBN, Nigeria Incentive based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and state governments organise the out-growers and ensure that they comply with contractual terms thereby reducing the incidence of side-selling. The financing institutions will serve as veritable channels for delivering credit to the out-growers.Linking small holder farmers to local processors Considering the difficulty of bringing Nigerian farmers to the limelight, the CBN, as part of its developmental agenda, came up with the idea of ABP in order to create an ecosystem to link out-growers (Small Holder Farmers) to local processors; increase banks’ financing to the agricultural sector; increase capacity utilisation of agricultural anchor companies involved in production of the identified commodities and the productivity/ incomes of out-growers/ farmers and to build capacity of banks, farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs. According to the apex bank, the objectives of the programme also include the need to reduce commodity importation and conserve external reserves; reduce the level of poverty among small holder farmers; create jobs; assist rural small-holder farmers to grow from subsistence to commercial production levels and to facilitate the emergence of a new generation of farmers/entrepre-neurs.
However, at the flagging off input distribution for the 2018 wet season farming in Cross River State recently, CBN said more than 400,000 farmers had so far received its support under the ABP to cultivate 12 crops, including rice, soya, maize, palm produce, cotton and cassava. The support, estimated at more than N56 billion since inception, has, however, raised local food production, saved foreign exchange and created jobs. Emefiele, reiterated the bank’s resolve to take agriculture back to its enviable position as a business venture through the intervention.
But he pointed out that genuine farmers must key into the technology-driven input distribution system with a view to benefiting from the low interest rate of nine per cent the facility offers.
According to him, the biometric capturing, which identified farmers with specific farmland through mapping, has eliminated the issue of ‘absentee’ or non-practising farmers benefiting from the inputs and other facilities.
Meanwhile, the apex bank also reiterated its pledge to support the more than 12,000 farmers registered under the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) in Cross River. The bank said the support would be with a view to repositioning agriculture as a business venture for employment generation, wealth creation and self-sufficiency in food production in the country at large and the state in particular.
With this more than 400,000 farmers already empowered so far via the ABP, it shows that the apex bank has bailed-out many farmers from abject poverty and contributed immensely to Nigeria’s food productivity.