• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s rice revolution fades as corruption reigns

paddy rice

The failure of some farmers who benefitted from the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) to repay the loans extended to them by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the fraud allegations in the scheme that led to its suspension are stalling the country’s quest for rice self-sufficiency.

While there is a dearth of reliable data on just how much progress Nigeria has made in its ‘rice revolution’, paddy production increased from about four million in 2015 when the scheme started to seven million metric tons in 2022, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

The number of rice mills both integrated and cottage increased from 10 in 2015 when the country kick-started its rice revolution to over 100 in 2023, according to data from the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN).

The average crop yield per hectare of rice rose from 1.5 metric tons per hectare to an average of 2 metric tons of the same acreage, according to data from the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation.

These successes recorded across the country’s rice value chain were mainly driven by the ABP – an intervention programme that provided farmers with key inputs in the form of loans.

However, this momentum ushered by the ABP initiative across the rice value chain is fast fading away since the apex bank suspended the programme for fraud allegations and farmers’ refusal to repay loans extended to them.

“The ABP was a laudable programme when it started but the anomalies in the scheme cannot be overlooked,” a source in the rice value chain who doesn’t want his name on print said.

“It is very bad for rice farmers that ABP was suspended, but at least the corruption in the scheme and why it failed will be addressed,” he said.

“Real farmers weren’t getting the loans anymore and CBN was no longer transparent with the funds. The agro-dealers supplying inputs were supplying low-quality inputs,” he noted.

According to him, the momentum the intervention brought to subsector and investment has all been halted on apex bank suspension of the scheme.

“The momentum is not there again and nobody is investing in rice as existing millers are struggling to produce and lots of farmers did not cultivate rice this year,” he noted.

Ibrahim Kabiru, national president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria said although the intervention was laudable when it was launched, it failed when the CBN decided to deal with the rice farmers group as the leaders did not disburse the loan to real farmers.

He explained that the CBN also created the Prime – Anchor, which he says gives loans to big-time farmers who have groups of outgrowers who provide money and inputs to produce rice for them which they pay back to the CBN in kind.

Abiodun Olorundenro, manager of operations of Aquashoot Limited said lots of irregularities and fraud destroyed the laudable initiative that was at the forefront of the country’s rice revolution.

“If the funds had gone to the real farmers, well implemented and there were no politics in it by ensuring transparency and efficiency in the process, Nigeria may have truly attained sufficiency in rice,” Olorundenro said.