By Racheal Ishaya
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), says it has disbursed N55 billion to more than 250,000 farmers within two years of implementation of the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
The Acting-Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Isaac Okorafor confirmed the figure on Wednesday in Abuja during a media briefing on the implementation of the programme.
The ABP was launched in Kebbi State on Nov. 17, 2015, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
It was designed to create economic linkages between farmers and processors, not only to ensure increased agricultural output of rice and wheat, but also close the gap between production and consumption.
Okorafor was accompanied to the briefing by the Special Adviser to the CBN Governor, Mr Olatunde Akande, and top executive of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) led by its President, Alh. Aminu Gorongo.
Okorafor said that out of the N55 billion provided by the apex bank to farmers, 80 per cent of the amount, N44 billion was given to rice farmers alone.
He said the need to provide rice farmers adequate funding was to ensure self sufficiency in rice production and to also ensure that Nigeria becomes a net exporter of the product.
“It goes to underscore the effectiveness and efficiency that the CBN has put into this programme.
“We have assisted about 250,000 farmers across Nigeria to cultivate close to 300,000 hectares of farmlands and you can see the impact on the streets’’ he said.
In his remarks, the RIFAN president Gorongo said that the association was partnering with the CBN to increase rice production by two million tonnes in 2018.
He said under the new ABP partnership between the CBN and RIFAN, 200,000 farmers would be given fresh funds to plant rice in the dry season farming.
According to him, another 500,000 rice farmers would also be mobilised during the wet season farming.
Gorongo said that through the funding, the farmers would be able to employ a total of five million people to work on rice production value chain during the period.
He said so far, farmers in about 34 states were presently under the new ABP with RIFAN.
“We have started collaboration with the CBN to have a private sector driven ABP, which means that under this new agreement, the state governments are not involved.
“We have launched this programme to put this country on the right part, especially in the area of agri-business.’’
Also speaking, Akande, the Special Assistant to the CBN Governor on Development Finance, said the ABP had been digitised to keep account of the activities of all the farmers involved.
According to him, under the new agreement with RIFAN, each farmer’s identity, home address, farm location and other vital information has been captured and each farmer is given a biometric card.
He said the new system would help resolve the issue of delay in payments to farmers and also the recoupment of funds borrowed out by the CBN.
“We have successfully digitally mapped all the farmers that are participating in the projects. This makes the new programme reliable, accessible and verifiable.
“The digitisation will ensure that no farmer will collect payment and refuse to pay. So loan repayment is guaranteed.
“Also, in the new agreement, RIFAN will provide training, and ensure that whatever is given to the farmers are well utilised.
“Depending on the season and the crop which is being cultivated, each farmer will get a support of about N250, 000 per hectare,’’ he said. (NAN)