With clear indications that Nigeria may finally be on the way to meeting its rice consumption needs, some foreign countries are already displaying dissatisfaction and mounting opposition.
This is as farmers across 13 states are starting near the end of wet season rice production with the help of N23 billion loans provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
A few weeks ago, the Ambassador of a European nation led a delegation to the office of CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, complaining that Nigerians had been importing stock fish from his country long before independence.
According to our sources, he lamented the decision of CBN to exclude the commodity from those that were eligible for importation with foreign exchange sourced from official window.
Emefiele bluntly informed his guest that while his country had over $1 trillion in its foreign reserve, Nigeria as at then had just about $25 billion and challenged the Ambassador to arrange for business people from his country to come to Nigeria and develop the wide coastal line from Lagos to Calabar.
Also, the European Union has placed a ban on importation of beans from Nigeria on the pretext that it contained “too much chemical.”
Former Deputy Governor of CBN, Dr. Obadaih Mailafia told Nigerian Tribune that the move was a direct consequence of action of CBN and Federal Government to attain self-sufficiency in food production and curtail unnecessary imports.
During an inspection of wet season rice harvest in some local government areas of Kebbi State on Sunday and Monday this week, Emefiele gave the assurance that Nigeria would soon exit importation of rice.
According to him, farmers in Kebbi State alone have produced one million tonnes of rice currently being harvested aside the 1.2 million from Kano and the 800,000 tonnes already harvested in Niger State.
Emefiele disclosed that N23 billion has been spent so far in promoting local farming and production of rice, soya bean, sugar and other important produce.
The CBN team visited Wasagu, Argungu, Birnin Kebbi and some other locations to inspect harvest and kick off dry season farming.
He added that Kebbi, Niger, Anambra, Calabar and other rice producing states would feed the nation and ensure availability of foods items in Nigeria.
He explained further that the progamme which is going to be a continuous exercise will boost economic activities of the country and diversify the nation economy.
“Our team has visited Niger, Eboyin, Ogun states and now we are in Kebbi State where the programme started” he added.
He then urge the media men to investigate the farmer in other to know where their challenges are and make the correction for the future occurrence.
Emefiele said that the bank wants to be part of the scheme so that more farmers can benefit from the project in Kebbi as well as other states where Soya bean can be grown successfully.
He said that this is in line with the bank’s ambition of making Nigeria food sufficient and simultaneously preserving the nation’s foreign reserve.
Annual consumption of rice in Nigeria is put at over 6 million metric tonnes per annum. Local production is about 2.8 million metric tonnes.
Sugar importation is put at 1.7 million tonnes. All in all the Central Bank of Nigeria estimates that a whopping 11 billion dollars (N3.1 trillion) is spent annually to import wheat, rice, sugar and fish.
“We currently spend so much money importing products that with the right nudge, we can become self-sufficient in.
“We spend billions importing vegetable oil into the country. You are aware that CBN don’t give foreign exchange anymore to people importing palm oil, vegetable oil into the country.
“We expect oil palm to be produced in Nigeria, soya bean should be turned into vegetable oil that we can consume in this country.
“We also have rice, wheat, palm oil, cassava, sugar, fish and several commodities. With the CBN anchor borrowers programme, we are on the path to food sufficiency.
“Those particular commodities we have been spending so much money on importing we want to make sure that we are able to produce this in Nigeria.
“We have the potential, we have the land, human resource and scientist that can give us the quality seeds so why should we be importing any of those things,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Governor of Kebbi state, Col. Samaila Yombe (rtd) said with the CBN intervention, farming in the state will become more mechanised.
“By tomorrow, thanks to the CBN, threshers will be bought for the farmers and wastes during harvest will be curtailed.
“Before now, farmers in the state do not have enough seeds and fertilizer, but with the parties involve, each farmer gets improved seedlings along with enough fertilizers.
“With better equipments, when you come back here for the next farming season, you will see a more advanced farming technology being used,” he said.
Also, the Director, Development Finance, CBN, Dr Mudashiru Olaitan said 73,075 farmers were benefiting from the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme in Kebbi state alone.
He said that rice farming under the programme was going on in all 21 local government areas of the state with an estimated yield of 1.2 million metric tonnes per harvest.
He said that per hectare, the estimated yield was six to eight tonnes. He said the farmers have been linked with buyers at an agreed sum of N6,600 per bag of unprocessed rice.
In his response, the Kebbi State Governor, Senator Atiku Abubakar Bagudu thank the visit assured them that kebbi would achieved is target.
“We are going to visit Zuru where they would producing share butter and other farm crops as kebbi state is blessed with farming corp and irrigation” he added.
He further pointed out that the anchor Borrowers progamme as reduce the level of unemployment and crime in the state, appeal to the Mr. President that the progamme should be continues one.
He was also in Kebbi state to flag off the beginning of Dry Season farming in the state.
The Soyabean project is a partnership between Kebbi state government and International Capital Market Group (ICMG) commodity in Lagos.
The agreement is for ICMG to provide 12kilogram of improved seedlings and two bags of fertilizers to small farmers and 50 kg of seedlings and 10 bags of fertilizers to large farmers.
The 5,000 farmers working on the project were also given N170,000 per hectare to take care of running cost.
At the end of the planting season, each hectare is estimated to produce 25 bags and out of that, four bags will be collected as repayment for the seedlings, fertilizers and money provided.