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Anchor Borrowers: Meeting Nigeria’s local rice need

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The country’s quest to attain self-sufficiency in rice production is gearing closer day-by-day as the Federal Government recently revealed that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) has boosted local rice presence in Nigerian markets. TAIWO HASSAN reports

 

 

In the beginning
When the idea to attain self-sufficiency in rice production in the country was mooted by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government in 2014, many Nigerians did not believe that it would come to reality since they have been accustomed to foreign rice being imported from Thailand, Brazil, India, USA and UAE.

One thing that convinced the administration to insist self-sufficiency was the continued rise in the country’s import bill on importation of rice. Prior to the initiative, Nigeria was spending about $22 billion annually on food.

However, in 2015, during one of the Federal Executive Council meeting (FEC) in Abuja, the Federal Government agreed on the need to float an Anchor Borrowers Programme to be managed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which focus would be to increase the country’s quest for self-sufficiency in rice production.

CBN’s ABP
The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) was conceived out of the CBN’s resolve to achieve a strong and viable agriculture base with more integrated value chains, enhanced food security, fewer imports and higher productivity.

In line with the Federal Government’s target of achieving food security for the country, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, explained that the APB was one of the apex bank’s initiatives to pursue creation of jobs, reduction in food imports, and diversification of the economy.

He said: “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 utilisation of integrated mills.”

It was established with a view to collaborating with anchor companies involved in the production and processing of key agricultural commodities.
Specifically, the APB has been pushed for rice and wheat farmers in 14 states, Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Zamfara, Admawa, Plateau, Lagos, Ogun, Cross-Rivers and Ebonyi, to advance their status from smallholder farmers to commercial or large growers.

This has become essential as the Federal Government has set a target of 2018 and 2019 for self-sustenance in rice and wheat, a target that is achievable if the success being recorded in Kebbi was replicated in other states that had been penned down for the programme.

President Buhari’s comment
On food security, the president said that his vision of repositioning Nigeria as a food-secure nation was on course as the country is on the verge of attaining food security.
He attributed the development to positive agricultural reform programmes and bumper harvest occasioned by good weather.

According to him, interventions through the Anchor Borrowers Programme of the CBN and the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative, among others, have been very successful in the agricultural reform initiative.

“People have gone back to the farm. We got the CBN, agriculture minister and money was provided at very low interest to farmers and the farmers responded and it was very positive. “We are lucky that we are in a position to feed ourselves. So we are going to have food security in Nigeria earlier than anybody ever thought,’’ he noted.

Rice targets
However, recently, Nigeria inched closer to achieving self-sufficiency in rice production as the administration announced that it was already targeting seven million tonnes production of the commodity in 2018.

According to the government, the giant stride in the country’s agric sector could be traced to the agricultural reform policy that has transformed the sector.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had stated that rice demand in the country as at 2015 stood at 6.3 million tonnes.

He said that due to the success recorded by the administration in local production of rice, importation dropped from 644,131 tonnes in 2015 to about 21,000 tonnes in 2017.
The minister added that as a result of the success recorded in local production of rice, some investors from Thailand had shown interest in establishing rice milling plants in Nigeria.
No doubt, the country’s quest to attain self-sufficiency in rice production has seen the establishment of many rice mills in the country.
These rice mills demonstrate the commitment of the current administration to assist off-takers and processors to contribute their quota towards attaining self-sufficiency in rice production in Nigeria.

Last line
Today, Nigeria is one of the largest producers of rice in the continent and this momentum could be traced to CBN’s APB.

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Agric

Nigeria’s agric and the challenges

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Recently, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, linked private sector investments to the growing transformation in Nigeria’s agric sector. But these investors still have to contend with myriad of challenges. TAIWO HASSAN reports

 

On attaining the mantle of leadership as Nigeria’s president on May 29th, Muhammadu Buhari, without compromising his administration’s role, explained that he would give top priority to the agric sector. Particularly, President Buhari wooed the private sector to invest in agriculture, saying that this is the next ‘big thing’ in the country and it is being positioned to increase the country’s revenue generation.

Since President Buhari’s clarion call, the private sector have keyed in into the Federal Government’s diversification agenda, through their investments in Nigeria’s agric sector. Ogbeh has consistently reiterated that his ministry is fully committed towards the development of the agricultural sector, stressing that key developments in the sector would continually be private sector driven.

He said that the Federal Government would provide the necessary incentives to grow the sector by facilitating financing and support for Small to Medium Scale Enterprises (SME) through investment vehicles such as FAFIN.

Fixing Nigeria’s agric sector

The minister said that the burden of fixing Nigeria’s economy has fallen squarely on his ministry as the oil industry has floundered and the revenue originating from it had taken a plunge, adding that no serious government will fold its arms and watch without doing something. According to him, to fix agriculture and the Nigerian economy, what the administration need to do is to harness the good policies it met on the table and blend with those that they are currently fashioning out, in a coherent and consistent manner such that it will instill confidence in the citizens, investors, market operators, farmers, traders and everyone along the various agricultural value chains.

He said that President Muhammadu Buhari has given his support for the interventions that could move agriculture forward and contribute to repositioning the economy and diversifying it away from overreliance on oil.Ogbeh said : “We have taken up the challenge of boosting local production of food as we reduce our dependency on food imports, boost domestic food production, revive rural economy and expand export earnings.

“With the huge agricultural potential of over 84 million hectares of land, abundant water bodies, particularly the various rivers, all-year-round favourable weather conditions and a variety of agro-ecologies suitable for agriculture, Nigeria is well positioned to feed its population as well as produce for export.

“The policies of my ministry will be proactive and responsive to the stakeholders’ peculiar needs. We will be nationalistic and patriotic in our approach. “We will support genuine investors and we will ensure that food is produced in abundance while we also boost the prospects of investors in the agricultural sector.”

Private sector investments

The increasing attention of the private investors in agriculture is a testimony to the fact that there is a lot of prospect in the sector. Particularly, the private sector investment in various agricultural value chains in Nigeria has re-positioned agriculture in the country in all ramifications. Indeed, the private sector investment has also provided an opportunity for the national agriculture community to familiarize themselves with the Federal Government’s priorities and plans for the sector.

No doubt, statistics revealed that private sector investments in the country’s agric sector has surpassed N1 trillion. Hence, agric experts have advised that the government needs to give more support to the private sector in order not to lose the goodwill the country had been enjoying in agriculture.

“There is risk of reduced investment spending that can lead to loses of opportunity for job creation by 16 priority investors due to lack of satisfaction with government support,” the UNDP Deputy Country Director of Programmes, Mandisa Mashologu said. He added that nascent system of coordination and inconsistency of policies, regulations, laws and administrative practices, which were key challenges, must become a thing of the past, if Nigeria must maintain its enviable leadership position in Africa’s agricultural transformation. Some of the multi-billion naira private sector investments in Nigeria’s agric sector are geared towards guaranteeing abundant food sufficiency and security.

Cosmas Maduka, Chairman of Coscharis Group, a foremost automobile dealer in Nigeria, has invested a fortune on rice production in Anambra State to the tune of 3,000 hectares and promised to increase it to 6,000 hectares soon.

Alhaji Sani Dangote, the vice chairman of Dangote Group, has indicated the commitment of his conglomerate in agricultural mechanisation. Dangote Group was among the investors who witnessed the flag-off of the second phase of the Mechanisation intervention of the Federal Government.

The company is among others taking up Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprise centres in Nigeria. Sani Dangote, who is also the chairman of the Nigeria Agriculture Business Group (NABG), said: “There is an urgent need for private sector stakeholders in agriculture to work together towards growing Nigeria’s agriculture, diversifying from oil and gas dependency, encouraging agricultural industrialization, and creating an enabling environment for agribusiness to thrive.”

On rice production, Africa’s richest man, Dangote, announced earlier this year that he was making a $1 billion investment in Nigeria’s rice production, which seemed to vindicate the government’s approach.

The Dangote Group plans to produce one million tonnes of parboiled milled rice over the next five years, equivalent to 16 per cent of domestic demand. Other big players have also jumped in, including the Lagos- based conglomerate TGI, which opened a rice mill in August with a capacity of 120,000 tonnes, and Olam Nigeria, part of Singapore-based Olam International, which plans to boost its existing rice output.

Constraints

However, despite the efforts of the private sector investors to boost Nigeria’s agriculture, they are still facing challenges in their farming businesses, including access to credit, access to land, land analysis, land management and security on farms. Also included are market access, standardization and post-harvest losses. All these challenges are currently affecting their huge investments in the sector.

Last line

With the huge private sector investment in Nigeria’s agriculture, experts have called for creation of enabling environment from government in order to safeguard their investments in the sector.

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Dogara’s wife assists 7, 000 women farmers in Bauchi

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As part of efforts to encourage women farmers, the wife of the Speaker House of Representatives Mrs Gimbiya Yakubu Dogara has distributed farms seeding to seven thousand women farmers in Bauchi state‎.

‎Mrs. Dogara represented by the Coordinator of the Sun Of Hope Foundation Mrs Darambi Kefas explained that the organization had supported 3, 500 women farmers in the constituency last year to cultivate rice which became so scarce for some time now saying 3, 500 youths were included in this year to cultivate maize with a view to eradicating hunger in the society.

‎She said three thousand five hundred (3, 500) women farmers were provided with rice seeds and additional three thousand five hundred (3500) women with maize seeds saying were donated free of charge by her pet project ‘Sun Of Hope Foundation’.

The women beneficiaries were drawn from Bogoro, Tafawa Balewa and Dass Federal constituency of Bauchi State where the speaker represents.

She noted that the new beneficiaries are being selected yearly from all wards in the three local government in order to carry all constituents along.

Mrs Dogara stated that the foundation intervenes in the areas of agriculture, health, education and children’s welfare said they recently donated medical equipment and consumables to Virginal Vestibular Fistula (VVF) centres in Ningi, Bauchi State, Akwa Ibom and Hajiya Gambo Sawaba VVF centre, Zaria.

” The foundation had in the recent time sponsored free ante natals to pregnant women in Dass local government and offers free medical outreach at the annual ‘Limzaar’ festival in Tafawa Balewa local government”, She said.

Responding on behalf of other beneficiaries, Esther Bitrus expressed appreciation to the Speaker’s wife for the gesture promising that they would make good use of the seeds.

Meanwhile, Mrs Dogara also donated two bags of rice, one bag of maize and baby kits and wares to mother of triplets Mrs Rachael Gabriel at Lafiyan Sara village in the local government.

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New agric laws: How far can NASS go?

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Just recently, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, called for the enactment of new legislation that can foster, guide and revolutionise agricultural activities in the country. TAIWO HASSAN juxtaposes this move with the realities on ground

 

 

Overview of Nigerian agric sector

Indeed, since the nation’s independence in 1960, agriculture had been the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, providing the largest chunk of foreign exchange inflow into the country. Moreover, it contributed about 63 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to official statistics from the National Bureau of Statistic (NBS).

The incomes as at then were derived from the export of major cash crops such as rubber, cocoa, palm oil, cashew nuts, groundnut and cotton, among others. Notwithstanding the low prices that agricultural products suffered at that time, the sector remained resolute by continually sustaining the country’s economy. Indeed, the sector was the largest employer of labour in the country then.

However, on assuming office as the Head of State in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to introduce diversification programme where agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing sectors were identified to stabilize the moribund economy.

Particularly, the government floated the various economic policies including the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), in order to stem the steady decline in the country’s economic fortunes.

For agriculture, the present administration launched the Green Alternative: Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016-2020) as a roadmap towards the revival of country’s agricultural sector.

According to the government, it is a comprehensive plan and a well thought-out strategy -to meaningfully and systematically address the myriad of challenges militating against the growth of the agricultural sector, with a view to providing innovative solutions for reviving and repositioning the sector for accelerated national development.

However, the agric policy of the government became the toast of some eminent industrialists, commercial farmers, foreign/ local investors and agro-allied industries as they ventured into different aspects of farming in order to provide food sufficiency and security for Nigerian populace.

Nigerian agricultural policy

Indeed, Nigeria has a robust agricultural policy set out in the Nigerian Agricultural Policy 2000, which provides the framework for the implementation of programmes and guidelines for agricultural development. The overreaching objectives of the Policy are:

The achievement of self-sufficiency in basic food supply and attainment of food security, increased production of agricultural raw materials for industries, eradication of poverty, development of the rural economy, and protection of environment.

This is expected to be achieved through the: Creation of a conducive macro-environment to stimulate private sector investment in agriculture, rationalisation of the roles of the three tiers of government in their promotional and supportive activities to stimulate growth, articulation and implementation of integrated rural development as a priority, National programme to raise the quality of life for rural people, increased agricultural production through increased budgetary allocation and promotion of the necessary developmental, supportive and serviceoriented activities, increasing fiscal incentives and promotion of increased use of agricultural machinery and inputs through a favourable tariff regime.

The policy is successfully implemented in areas of food crops such as maize, beans, sorghum, yam, millet, cassava, pineapple, and oranges.

However, the policy is less successful and greater investment will be required in areas of cash crops such as oil palm, cocoa, rubber, groundnut, cotton, cashew and sugar cane, and food crops such as potato, rice, wheat and fruit crops. House of Reps’ new agricultural laws However, having realized that the country had ots of agricultural laws that are no longer relevant and obsolete, the House of Reps called for the enactment of new laws that will take the agricultural sector to new highs while turning it into a major foreign exchange earner for the country in the nearest future.

The Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara while speaking at a two-day public hearing organised by the House Committee on Agricultural Colleges and Institutions in Abuja, recently affirmed that it was time for legislating new agricultural laws for the country.

He said that there was need to ensure bills processed by the legislature were cost-sensitive and did not increase the financial burden of the nation through the multiplication of agencies.

The proliferation of agencies, according to him, is not conducive to the economic well-being of the nation as a new agency “comes with its complement of bureaucracy.”

Instead, he advocated for the amendment of the functions and mandate of existing agencies, where possible. Dogara added: “Furthermore, in cases where there is need to reinvigorate a particular sector and lay emphasis, it may become necessary to carve out an agency from an existing one.”

He reiterated that the agricultural sector requires up-to-date legislation for continuous growth and development. He said, “It is very gratifying to note that giant strides are being made in the sector.

“Up-to-date legislation is required to aid the drive to modernize agricultural practices, drive economic diversification, achieve food self-sufficiency, and ultimately turn agriculture into a major foreign exchange earner in the nearest future.”

New agric bills

The bills being considered by the committee include a Bill for an Act to Regulate the Profession of Agriculture and to make provision for the Establishment, Functions and Administration of Nigerian Institute of Agriculturists, and for Other Related Matters. (HB.838). Also under consideration, is a Bill for the Act to Repeal the Veterinary Surgeons Act. Cap. V3, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and for Other Related Matters (HB. 836). In his remarks, the Speaker urged the committee to ensure the bills were in accordance with legal, regulatorky and economic goals set out for the agricultural sector through appropriate scrutiny.

Last line

Agricultural experts, under the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), are however, pessimism about the lawmakers’ stance to promulgate new agricultural laws given the lifespan of the current administration, saying the bills could be waste of national resources.

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