Emefiele faults claims agric interventions favour northern Nigeria

Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele

Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele has faulted claims in certain quarters suggesting that the bank’s targeted interventions in the agricultural sector are tilted in favour of the northern part of the country.

Mr. Emefiele made the clarification in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State on Tuesday while unveiling the 2020 wet season harvest aggregation and flag-off of the 2021 wet season input distribution in the south-west geo-political zone under the CBN-RIFAN anchor borrowers’ programme.

According to him, contrary to views held by some individuals and interest groups, the bank’s interventions in the anchor borrowers’ programme (ABP) were not only about rice production but had expanded to over 21 crops and were evenly spread across the country.

Describing criticisms against the bank’s effort at boosting agriculture in Nigeria as unfair, he disclosed that more than N300 billion had been disbursed to companies operating in the southern part of Nigeria, citing companies and farmers across Lagos, Edo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River as major beneficiaries of the bank’s interventions.

Meanwhile, Emefiele charged stakeholders in the various crop value chains in the Nigeria to continually make consistent and positive strides towards attaining food security, noting that attaining self-sufficiency in food production will not come cheap.

While acknowledging the current challenges in attaining food security in Nigeria, he said synergy among stakeholders will surely catalyse the growth process, assuring that the CBN stood ready to offer effective partnership to deliver on this critical national mandate of attaining self-sufficiency in food production.

According to him, the sustainability of Nigeria’s current efforts in agricultural production can only be guaranteed if youths are attracted into agriculture as they remain the future of the country.

He therefore enjoined Nigerian youths to embrace agriculture, noting that “They have the talent, energy, enthusiasm, technological adoption capacity and all the right drive to revolutionise agricultural production in Nigeria.”

“We must meet them half-way to ensure that we provide the enabling environment to make agriculture attractive to them,” he noted, adding that “the Central Bank of Nigeria stands ready to support youths that are willing to engage in agriculture.”

The CBN governor disclosed that a total of 3,107,890 farmers had been financed for the cultivation of 3,801,397 hectares across 21 commodities through 23 participating financial institutions in the 36 states of the federation and FCT, from the inception of the programme till date. He added that under the 2020 wet season CBN-RIFAN partnership, the bank had also financed 221,450 farmers for the cultivation of 221,450 hectares in 32 states.

Emefiele equally disclosed that the bank planned a minimum of 1 million hectares of rice through a combination of RIFAN farmers and prime/private anchors for each planting season in 2021. While also unveiling aggressive production plans for maize, wheat, soybeans, cassava, sorghum and cassava, he noted that the bank’s backward integration drive with rice millers was also gaining momentum as the CBN intends to finance some millers to grow their own paddy during the current wet season.

According to him, the bank will develop a repayment framework that will allow farmers to use their farm produce as repayment for the electricity consumed by the beneficiaries of the scheme. This is even as he expressed hope that the incentive would improve the standard of living of farmers in Nigeria, motivate prompt loan repayment and ultimately enhance the sustainability of the programme.

“Loan repayment is the hallmark of every credit cycle and the sustainability of the programme is hinged on farmers’ ability and willingness to repay their loans, and we are constantly engaging with them to enhance their trust in the system,” Emefiele noted.

Unveiling what he described as the first ever grain pyramid in the south-west, Emefiele also expressed strong optimism that the event would generate the required momentum to catalyse rice cultivation in the region and provide a sustainable source of paddy for the numerous rice mills springing up in the south-west and its environs.

While reiterating the massive potential in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, he stressed the need for more private sector investment in the agricultural value chain, noting that significant improvements in domestic production of staple food items, would help in attaining the country’s price stability goals while reducing its dependence on imported food items.

Kebbi State Governor Abubakar Bagudu represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the event.

Also present was the host governor of Ekiti Kayode Fayemi, governors of Ondo, Jigawa and Osun, Rotimi Akeredolu, Mohammed Abubakar and Gboyega Oyetola respectively.