The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s development agenda, christened Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, for farmers who had already started repayment, if sustained, would not only make the nation self-sufficient in food production, but also create jobs and conserve foreign exchange earnings, which is needed so badly now
Scathing figures from the World Bank had revealed that Nigeria is one of the toughest places in the world one can run business successfully based on her 168th position on the Ease of Doing Business globally.
Indeed, findings have also shown that because of the harsh business environment, challenges and lack of infrastructure in the country, many financial institutions operating in the country averse to lending money to investors, businessmen/women, farmers and others for start up business. However, the reason is not farfetched based on the continued rise in non-performing loans of lenders, which is threatening the financial industry.
This has prompted the banks to jack up their interest rate for customer willing to secure loans for businesses for fears of defaults in the process of servicing the loans. Consequently, the Nigerian farmers are the mostly affected as high interest rate from banks remained the bane of financing of agriculture and the development of good agricultural practices. Particularly, a situation where commercial banks request for as much as 25 per cent interest on agricultural loans is capable of crippling the government’s policy of economic diversification through agriculture.
Having realised the turbulent challenges facing Nigerian farmers in the process of securing loans, the Federal Government, through the CBN came to the rescue of farmers in rice production by initiating Anchor Borrowers’ Programme meant to boost rice sufficiency in the country.
In addition, the apex bank also approved lending of special intervention fund to agriculture and manufacturing sectors at a single digit in order to boost growth and development in these sectors.
Understanding CBN’s ABP
In 2015, the banking watchdog launched an Anchor Borrowers Programme 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.
The apex bank said the effort, which was part of its development agenda would not only create millions of jobs but also capable of lifting thousands of small holder farmers out of poverty in the country.
During the flagged-off in Birni-Kebbi, Kebbi State in 2015, the CBN set aside N40 billion out of the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund (MSMEDF) to be given to farmers at single digit interest rate of maximum nine per cent per annum under the ABP.
The CBN said it established the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) with a view to collaborating with anchor companies involved in the production and processing of key agricultural commodities.
According to the CBN governor, “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 believes the effort 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.
Farmers’ loans repayment
However, last week, benefiting farmers under the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme paid back over N7 billion from the loans they got under the programme, the apex bank disclosed.
The bank said this was contrary to insinuations in some quarters that the farmers were unwilling to pay back their loans. CBN’s spokesperson, Isaac Okorafor, said details of the loan disbursement and repayment as at March 31 showed that the farmers has so far repaid about N7.119 billion out of a total of N33.34 billion released to them.
The loans were disbursed govthrough the 12 participating financial institutions to 146,557 farmers across 21 states cultivating over 180,018 hectares of land. Okorafor said of the total amount released to date, about N15.137 billion disbursed to 73,941 farmers in Kebbi State was due for repayment. It is some of the benefitting Kebbi farmers that repaid about N7.119 billion.
New Telegraph’s investigation had showed how thousands of Kebbi farmers benefitted from the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme as well as its successes and challenges. The repaid amount, which had since been returned to the CBN by the participating banks, represents about 47 per cent of the total amount to be repaid by the Kebbi farmers.
The apex bank said the balance of N18.203 billion of the 12 months tenured loans released to farmers in the other 20 states for two cropping (wet and dry) seasons was not yet due for repayment. However, Okorafor said, farmers in other benefiting states have also commenced the repayment to the tune of N1.238 billion, which is already being transferred to the CBN.
“Efforts are currently being made by the participating state governments to ensure that all outstanding loans are repaid by the farmers as soon as they are due before commencement of the next dry season cultivation.
“This is to enable the CBN extend similar gestures to farmers in other states, which have indicated interest in participating in the Anchor Borrowers Programme,” Okorafor said.
Following the announcement by the banking watchdog of the farmers’ loans repayments, the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) has commended the rice farmers for being a worthy example of a true representation of Nigerian farmers for summoning the courage to commence the loans repayment secured under the ABP.
Chairman, Lagos Chapter of AFAN, Otunba Femi Oke, in a chat with New Telegraph, said that the CBN has demonstrated through the ABP that Nigerian farmers have brighter future in this country.
Oke commended the apex bank for the fate it had in Nigerian farmers under the ABP, saying that no bank in the country could give such loans to farmers. According to him, the CBN’s ABP has turned the face of agriculture in the country, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari is truly committed to improve the agric sector and Nigerian farmers’ living status.
“Yes, we (AFAN) members are happy to hear the news that our counterparts in the rice farming have started repaying back their loans. It is a good thing and we immensely thank the CBN for this initiative and for having fate in us,” Oke said.
The success of the ABP and the repayment of the loans show that Nigerian farmers are changing the face of lending system in the country’s banking sector. Hopefully, this loan repayment under ABP will change the mindset of Nigerian banks in lending to farmers to boost agriculture.
Food sufficiency: FG, NAERLS give conflicting reports
Despite Federal Government’s claim that food production has increased across the country, the 2017 wet season National Agricultural Performance Survey report revealed otherwise. TAIWO HASSAN reports
Indeed, the study highlighted challenges that affected food production during the 2017 wet season farming to include: climate change, absence of government input support, insecurity, kidnapping and poor support for agricultural extension.
The study carried out by the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, domiciled at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, noted that the constraints affected all the subsector of agriculture including crops, livestock, fisheries, aquaculture, and agro forestry value chain.
The study, which was launched in Abuja by the Minister of State Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, noted that although there was increase in land area for food production, but this only resulted in 35 per cent increase in livestock and aquaculture.
While presenting the report in Abuja, the Executive Director, NAERLS, Prof. Mohammed Othman, lamented that the level of mechanisation in Nigeria is still very low, as over 34 states are unable to access tractor services in 2017, due to high cost of hiring services.
Besides not buying tractors for farmers, Othman said the survey indicated that 28 states could not access tractor services for their wet season farming due to unavailability, resulting into high cost of land clearing activities.
The report identified maize as the most cultivated crop in Nigeria, accounting for 5,960,920 hectares, producing 10, 813,980 metric tonnes (MT) compared to 12,107,580MT in 2016, representing a 11.96 per cent increase in national total output.
However, the minister blamed NAERLS for withholding the research results of the survey, which has been conducted annually for the past 29 years, saying that the report ought to serve as a planning tool for farmers, investors and other relevant stakeholders.
He said: “We are very sad that for the past 29 years, we have always produced this type of document done with painstaking survey conducted across the country, but never formally presented to the public. Any research conducted but not presented to the public, as far as I’m concerned, will not be able to achieve the purpose for which it was conducted.
“You can imagine that for 29 years, this very highly respected institute, domiciled in ABU, has been producing this survey, but never formally presented to the public.”
He also criticised the survey as being one-sided, due to its concentration on only the wet season farming, noting that Nigeria did so well in its dry season farming.
Lokpobiri noted that for over two years of being a minister, he never received a copy of any of the previous surveys from NAERLS, decrying over-dependence on data generated by foreign organisations, which might not represent the true situation of Nigeria.
He noted that investors had trooped to the ministry to establish farms and production facilities, but were discouraged due to lack of data.
He therefore stressed the need for NAERLS to ensure annual public presentation and commercialisation of the report to generate more revenue for government.
Indeed, the study showed that in the wheat sector, farmers were facing tumults challenges and this is fueling unrest.
Particularly, the report said that Nigeria lost fortunes of wheat production amid post-harvest losses, lack of quality seeds and other inputs, as well as non-availability of farming implements.
Realistically, these factors hindered Nigeria’s quest to achieve the set target of 1.5 million tons wheat production earmarked for 2018 as many of the farmers were forced to abandon their hectares of wheat farms.
Speaking on the issues in a chat with New Telegraph, a member of Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria (WFAN), said lack of improved seeds had forced farmers in Gombe State to abandon their initial plans of cultivating 10,000 hectares of wheat farms in the state.
“Our cultivation is limited by lack of quality seeds and farming implements. Most of our farmers complained that the available seeds have been planted and replanted for over five years. This has resulted in deterioration in terms of crop quality, as the crop yield will not be good,” he said.
He lamented that good quality seeds, when available, were not enough for distribution to the farmers during the period under review.
“Initially, Lake Chad Research Institute brought us foundation seeds, but the problem we had then was that the seeds, which were of good quality, were not sufficient. Those farmers who were able to plant the crop early enough harvested three to four tons on each hectare of farmland, while those that planted late realised between one and two tons per hectare,’’ the source said.
Ironically, many Nigerians have been deceived under the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari that the country’s agric sector is recording unprecedented achievement, but the realities on the ground depicts the contrary.
Katsina government committed to agricultural mechanization – DG media
The Director-General, Katsina Media and Publicity, Malam Ibrahim Muazzam says Katsina State government remains committed to agricultural mechanization to ease farming activities in the state.
Speaking to newsmen in Katsina, the DG Media said the state government has already procured 225 latest model tractors from an Indian firm, Springfield Agro Ltd.
He said the tractors will be distributed to farmers through the Tractors Owners Association to enhance the farmers productivity.
Malam Ibrahim Muazzam said already, over five dams across the state were under rehabilitation to facilitate dry season farming which will boost agricultural productivity.
He said the state government also supports farmers in the production of staple foods like rice, maize, wheat, millet, sorghum and guinea corn through the provision of fertilizer at subsidized rates and extension services to farmers
FAO, USAID to train 4,700 vet experts
A United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-FAO partnership has with on year succeeded in training over 4,700 veterinary health professionals in 25 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The partnership has been working to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to manage outbreaks of diseases in farm animals.
The FAO-provided technical trainings according to a statement, covered a gamut of key competencies, including disease surveillance and forecasting, laboratory operations, biosafety and biosecurity, prevention and control methods and outbreak response strategies.
About 3,266 vets in Asia, 619 in West Africa, 459 in East Africa, and 363 in the Middle East benefitted according to the statement.
They are on the front line of the effort to stop new diseases at their source.
“Over the course of this relationship we’ve learned that there are many mutually beneficial areas of interest between the food and agricultural community and the human health community,” said Dennis Carroll, Director of USAID’s Global Health Security and Development Unit.
“A partnership with FAO not only enables us to protect human populations from future viral threats, but also to protect animal populations from viruses that could decimate food supplies. It’s not just a global health, infectious disease issue, but also a food security, food safety, and economic growth issue,” Carroll added.
“Some 75 percent of new infectious diseases that have emerged in recent decades originated in animals before jumping to us Homo sapiens, a terrestrial mammal. This is why improving adequately discovering and tackling animal disease threats at source represents a strategic high-ground in pre-empting future pandemics,” said Juan Lubroth, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer
“A proactive approach is absolutely critical, and for that, the world needs well-trained, up-to-speed professionals — biologists, ecologists, microbiologists, modellers, physicians and veterinarians — which is why the United States’ consistent support for building up that kind of capacity has been invaluable,” Lubroth said.
Population growth, agricultural expansion and environmental encroachment, and the rise of inter-continental food supply chains in recent decades have dramatically altered how diseases emerge, jump species boundaries, and spread, FAO studies have shown.
USAID support under the GHSA umbrella is helping FAO engage with 17 countries in Africa and Asia to strengthen capabilities to detect and respond to zoonotic diseases.
Beyond the risks posed to human health, animal diseases can cost billions of dollars and hamstringing economic growth.
The most damaging outbreaks of high impact disease in recent decades all had an animal source, including H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza, H1N1 pandemic influenza, Ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
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