Kebbi State rice farmers have never had it so good, Yusuf Isa, the coordinator, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Argungu Branch told me on a 140 kilometre-expanse of rice farm in Argungu Local Government Area of Kebbi State.
Isa, who was conducting me through massive rice farms in the area on Monday, August 1, 2016, said prior to that day, Kebbi rice farmers struggled to make good returns on investments, as sales of a 75kg bag of rice sold for at the highest N5,500.
Today, however, same bags sell between N9,000 to N11,000, making thousands of rice farming in the state millionaires.
The making of Kebbi rice millionaires
Thanks to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, an investment of N210,000, training on farming techniques and farm inputs such as water pump, fertilisers, the farmers are now literally smiling to the bank, depositing a large sum of money as returns on investment.
Alhaji Mukhtar Hassan, who I met at the Sterling Bank (the only commercial bank in Brinin Kebbi partnering with the CBN on the programme), was in the middle of filling out his deposit slip when I got to the bank.
Lost as to how to fill the form, he asked for help, which I offered, as I asked him questions in Hausa language, the official language in the state.
Beaming with smiles, Hassan told me how, only seven months ago, he was struggling with continued rice farming, as according to him, he along several other farmers in the state, were no longer breaking even, let alone making profits.
But something happened to change the dynamics of rice farming as the farmers knew it, he said. “We were told that the CBN was going to help us with rice farming this year and we were encouraged to sign up for the programme. Initially didn’t think much of it, but my wife and friends encouraged me to try it. Now I am glad that I listened to them. I have never had so much profit since I started farming rice over 20 years ago,” he said grinning.
“Today, I am here to deposit my profit into the bank. I have enough money to take care of my family and for the next planting season. I have made much money and I am grateful to our governor who brought this laudable programme to Kebbi State. I want to thank the CBN and our President, Muhammadu Buhari for bring this initiative to our state,” he said gleefully, in Hausa and broken English.
Other farmers who were in the bank had similar stories to tell, many of them speaking highly of the state governor, Atiku Bagudu, without whom the programme may never have got to Kebbi State, according to them.
To corroborate their stories, I asked Dauda Abdul-Wahab, Branch Head, Sterling Bank, Brinin Kebbi, to tell me the actual situation with the farmers.
He did the math for me. Say a farmer on the programme gets N210,000 for farm an hectare, which yields a hundred or 90 75kg bags of paddy rice (which usually happens according to the farmers) sold at N10,000 per bag, that gives the farmer a return of N1 million. Now say and a smallholder farmer farms about three hectare at minimum, he is left with give or take N2,370,000 after repaying his loan, he said.
“So, basically, what this programme has done is make millionaires out of these smallholder farmers,” he told me. From his experience, registered 5,000 rice farmers with the bank are on the verge of becoming multimillionaires, while some already are, thanks to more than 100% profit being recorded in the state.
When I asked him if the farmers were making repayments as when due, he told me “yes. I can tell you categorically that many of our farmers are repaying their loans and that is encouraging to us. Through the success of this programme, I am calling on other commercial banks to join in this programme,” he said.
In Bunza village, where I visited on Thursday morning, rice farmers attested to manager’s statement on them gradually becoming multimillionaires.
A man in the village, Audu Maigari, who said he had struggled to feed his family prior to the programme, said since the ABP started, he has experienced some economic growth.
According to him, since attending the training on better and effective ways to farm rice, along with high yielding seedlings to plant, his production has increased by 80%. He said he could also sell at competitive prices now that the government had closed its boarders to rice imports; a development he said was in the right direction towards food security.
According to him, prior to the closing of boarders, it was a struggle to sell 75kg of paddy rice at N2,500. Now, however, the least he and his co-farmers sell for is N9,000. There have been records of N10,000 to N11,000 in some parts of the village.