The N200 billion Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), and the Anchor Borrowers programmes of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has given a good boost to local rice production in Ebonyi State that meets international standards.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ebony Agro Limited (Integrated Rice Mill), Mr Charles Ugwu, made this revelation while addressing finance correspondents and business editors who were in the state for a conference and took facility tour of the factory.
The scheme was established by the CBN to fast track the development of the Nigerian economy by providing credit facilities to commercial agricultural enterprises at a single digit interest rate as well as enhance national food security, increase output, generate employment and diversify the revenue base which is in line with the government’s bid to diversify the economy.
The Ebony Agro CEO said “Our locally processed rice now competes favourably with imported ones as the integrated mills churn out rice without sand and stones, well-polished, graded and branded. It tastes better than the imported rice.”
Although the rice mill according to him was built through the support of the Federal Government, while the Chinese provided the technology, it is kept alive by the CBN when no Nigerian bank was willing to support the project, only asking for difficult collaterals.
“Without the CACS fund, this mill will not run. Indeed no mill will run in the country because you need low interest funding to buy major raw materials to stock up.
“So CBN stepped in through CACS and the most recently launched Anchor borrowers program,” Ugwu stated.
He said the mill with production capacity of 30,000 tones (that is four trailer loads of rice per day) in a year, is a medium-sized mill and the biggest that Nigeria has at the moment which boosts of high quality.
While urging Nigerians to patronise locally produced rice, Ugwu who was the former president of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, added that with the yield at about 56 per cent, Nigeria is learning fast.
“This is a basic mill, very efficient. We have made mistakes and learnt from them and become proficient in it. The rice we produce here in Nigeria is the best at the moment and command a premium,” he said.
He recalled that Ebony Rice was showcased in New York and Washington DC when the federal government was seeking for increased funding support from the World Bank.
Ugwu however regretted that challenges of infrastructure, especially water, electricity and roads is hampering expansion of the plant for increased output.
He therefore called on the government to create enabling environment to boost rice production and processing in the country, urging stakeholders to invest in the rice value chain.
Government he believes, should be consistent in policies that promote local production.
He further explained that the Integrated Rice Mill is one of the 5 surviving Rice Mills out of the. 17 Mills the Federal Government established in 2008 after a food shortage incidence that embarrassed the world.
He commended the Ebonyi State Government for providing the land and constructing the access road that led to the Rice Mill.
Under CACS, Banks in the country were granted facilities to be disbursed to clients, both private and state governments, at a maximum interest rate of 9.0 per cent in which the CBN earns two per cent as interest from the 9 per cent maximum interest rate charged.
The funds used for the financing was a Bond issued with a seven year tenor, floated by the Debt Management Officer (DMO).»
The scheme was initially meant to terminate in September this year but because of its success it has been extended to September 2025.