President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday flagged off the N20 billion rice farmers programme in Kebbi state with a promise to put an end to importation of rice into the country.
The programme is an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, aimed at assisting farmers to increase the production and supply of feedstock to agro-processors.
President Buhari explained that the urgent need of his administration to exploit the huge potentials in the agricultural sector is the gradual collapse of the oil sector and expressed the hope that the CBN-anchored programme will take millions of Nigerians out of poverty and create job opportunities for the mass of the unemployed.
According to the President, the discovery of oil in the country was meant to complement other sectors of the economy but that the reverse has been the case, adding that growing the agricultural sector will help balance the scale of the dwindling oil economy.
He said that his administration’s desire to diversify the economy and boost food production arose out of the need to reduce the country’s heavy reliance on imported foods, thereby creating millions of jobs for the people and taking farmers out of poverty.
President Buhari further explained that the importance of agriculture in the economy cannot be over emphasized due to huge economic potentials in the sector that is capable of replacing the nation’s crude oil, adding that in the 70s, the economy of the country was built on agriculture before the discovery of oil.
“In the 70s, the nation’s investment and companies were financed by the agricultural proceeds before the discovery of oil,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele explained that the anchor borrowers programme will build capacity of banks in agricultural lending to farmers and entrepreneurs in the value chain and reduce commodity importation.
He said that the programme will reduce the level of poverty among small holder farmers and create jobs while assisting rural small holder farmers to grow from subsistence to commercial production level.
He said that the implementation of the programme is hinged on three pronged approach, namely; the out-growers support programme, training of farmers, extension workers and banks as well as risk mitigation.
Under the APB, according to the CBN Governor, N20 billion has been set aside from the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund, MSMEDF, for farmers at a single-digit interest rate of 9.0 per cent to address the challenges of poor funding which has been affecting the sector in the past.
The programme is focused on the creation of ecosystem to link out-growers (small holder farmers) to local processors.
The CBN governor further stated that the country’s reliance on food importation has been the cause of massive unemployment in the country, explaining that, “that is the reason why rice importation is in the foreign exchange exclusion list” as it amounts to about N1trillion annually.
Apart from boosting the capacity of rice production in the country, 2 million direct/indirect jobs are expected to be provided by the scheme, as well as turn the country from importer of rice to exporter of rice among other commodities.

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