The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it is looking at providing cheap funding at no more than 5% interest for farmers assessing CBN credit facilities.
The funding would enable farmers to acquire agricultural equipment, fish farming, and feed mills.
Godwin Emefiele, governor of the apex bank, said this on Thursday in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, during the launch of locally-produced Ofada rice, christened ‘MITRO Rice’.
Emefiele said the cheap funding, which would focus on processing the farm produce, was the next phase after supporting primary agriculture to grow rice, cassava, and other farm produce.
The apex bank governor, who is a member of the Presidential Task Force on Agricultural Commodities and Production, said Ogun State has continued to demonstrate the urge to support the focus of the Federal Government to grow the economy.
He explained that the central bank has made it a responsibility to support any effort or attempt to grow the agricultural sector and, by extension, grow the economy.
According to him, the effort by the Ogun State government and other state governments embarking on agriculture will conserve scarce foreign exchange spent on importing agricultural produce.
He said, “Ogun State continues to demonstrate the urge to support the focus of the government to create jobs and to grow the economy. A country that doesn’t take agriculture seriously is naturally an unserious country.
“We at the Central Bank of Nigeria, we have made it a responsibility to say that we will continue to support any effort or attempt by anybody to grow our agricultural sector because, in doing this, we produce food for our people; in doing this, we produce jobs for our people; and in doing this we grow our economy.
“The selfish aspect of this, for me, is that it goes a long way to conserve foreign exchange because we will no longer be spending scarce foreign exchange to import agricultural produce, we will now tell ourselves that we will eat what we produce and we will produce what we eat.
“Now, having supported thus far what I called primary agriculture, the farmers, to see that we grow rice, we grow cassava and we do some of those primary agriculture, the next phase we will be embarking on is to begin to tell ourselves, how do we process these foods, how do we mill the rice, how do we harvest the rice, etc.
“We are going to be looking at providing cheap funding at no more than 5% for those who are going to be assessing facilities to acquire agric equipment like threshers, like harvesters, or those who will be going into fish farming, or those who will be going into feed mills.”
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force and governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, said Nigeria had the capacity to compete favourably with the best rice producers in the world.
Bagudu said land for rice plantation in Nigeria indicated that there were 12 million rice farms, suggesting that the country could produce as much as 50 million metric tons and not under 10 million currently produced.
According to the governor, the country has seen yields going as low as 1.5 million metric tons per hectare per farmer to as high as 9-10 million metric tons which is comparable to yields that are achievable in the best places where rice is produced.
The governor said: “Around the world, about 600 million metric tons of rice is produced every year and Nigeria, we are still at a little less than 10 million.
“Our land size estimate by the Rice Farmers Association, which indicated that there are about 12 million rice farms, suggests that even if an average yield per farmer is a modest 5 tons, we should be producing 50 million metric tons, not under 10 million metric tons that we are currently producing.
“Nigeria has the ability to produce rice competitively, and currently there’s no nation that can produce rice cheaper and deliver it to Nigeria, and to be imported properly and compete with that rice which is being produced by Nigerian farmers.”
He, however, called on Nigerians to mobilise for Nigerian rice and other commodities because of the safety standard and freshness.
“It is important for all of us to mobilise to patronise Nigerian rice and Nigerian commodities because, if anything, we know how they are produced, we know the safety standard, we know the freshness compared to commodities whose short life is seldom in excess of seven years, unlike MITROS Ofada rice, or lake rice, Ebonyi rice or any other rice from any other states in Nigeria.”
Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Ogun State governor and host, revealed that 110,000 bags of the MITROS Rrce – planted, processed, and packaged in Ogun State – would be released into the market.
Amosun said the target of his administration was to be an off-taker and allow the private sector to take it up, adding that concentration on agriculture will not only boost the economy but also reduce the pressure on foreign reserves.
“One of the bigger tragedies of our nation is our dependence on food import to feed our population in spite of abundant arable land and labour force.
“The impact of this on our economy has been significant, putting pressure on our foreign reserves and, by implication, loss in the value of naira.
“This is gradually coming to an end and you will begin to see the appreciation of our naira when all of us concentrate in agriculture.
“We can’t afford to sit back in Ogun State and allow our people to suffer from food insecurity.”