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Rice revolution heralds new era in Nigeria’s food sufficiency quest – Buhari

Buhari presides over FEC, as Muhammad Shehu takes oath, as RAMFC chairman,

President Buhari on Tuesday assured that the rice revolution being championed by his administration under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will deliver food sufficiency across the country before he leaves office in 2023.

Buhari gave the assurance as he unveiled 13 rice pyramids stacked with a total of about 1.2m bags in Abuja, and said to be the largest ever. The mega pyramids were aggregated paddy rice submitted for loan repayment by the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) under 2020 dry and 2021 wet seasons.

Buhari’s administration had in 2015, identified and launched the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) as an essential policy instrument for achieving economic diversification through agriculture.

The ABP being implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was designed to encourage investments in agriculture and empower smallholder farmers as drivers of transformation in the agricultural sector and as critical enablers of economic growth.

As at the end of December 2021, the CBN, under the Programme had financed 4,489,786 farmers who cultivated 5,300,411 hectares across 21 commodities through 23 Participating Financial Institutions in the 36 States of the Federation and FCT.

Read also: Mixed reactions as Nigeria sets to unveil 1.2m bags rice pyramid

Beyond increasing national rice output from about 5.4 million metric tons in 2015 to over 9 million metric tons in 2021, it has also helped significantly improve productivity per hectare of the smallholder farmer from about 2.4 metric tons per ha in 2015 to between about 5 metric tons per ha in 2021.

The ABP has also increased access to finance by Nigerian rural farmers, who before now were virtually excluded from the financial system, Buhari said.

Buhari noted that the programme has driven the rice revolution in the country, and assured that the bags of paddy which were being unveiled will be moved straight to the millers and then to the market to further improve supply and force down prices.

He also noted that prior to his administration, there were only 15 standard Rice mills in Nigeria, but the country now has over 50 Standard and integrated Rice mills creating jobs and reducing unemployment.

“We expect additional significant output when two new mills are started in Lagos and Katsina. I am also aware that because of the large margins in this business, more people are showing interest in investing in our agribusiness,” the president noted.

In his welcome address, CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele stressed that the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme has not only increased the availability of rice but also helped moderate prices, reduce imports and expand jobs.

According to him, the feat achieved in rice production has not only made Nigeria the largest rice producer in Africa but has also unlocked enormous private sector investment in the rice value chain.

“Beyond the event, it also symbolizes the efforts made by our farmers to commit to loan repayment through produce submission and ultimately ensures the sustainability of the Programme.

“To further create value and transfer these gains along the value chain, we have mapped millers to off-take these paddies and we will track the release of their outputs to the market as we strive to manage inflation and grow the rice value chain in Nigeria.

“We have deepened our stakeholders’ engagement to increase the arable land under cultivation and improve the productivity per hectare using improved seeds and agronomic practices.”

Emefiele also announced that the CBN is currently exploring a new rice seed variety with RIFAN that has the potential to deliver over 8 tons per ha.

The pilot programme expected to commence in the 2022 dry season, could be the game changer for the rice sector in Nigeria.

The CBN will also work with the various seed certification authorities and explore the possibility of patenting it for RIFAN as part of their legacies under the Programme.

Meanwhile, taking a cue from the successes in the rice value chain, the CBN commenced the “Brown Revolution” last year to transform the county’s wheat value chain and also established a Strategic Maize Reserve with the stock of maize submitted as loan repayment by our farmers.

Aminu Mohammed Goronyo, President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) said the Anchor Borrower Programme has become a reference point, having led to increased access to farmers across the country.