Stakeholders stress on strengthening CBN’s agro-industrial interventions

STAKEHOLDERS in the Agro-industrial sector of the Nigerian economy have drummed up support for a new scheme, “100 projects for EVERY 100 days,” put in place by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stimulate agro-industrial activities, create employment opportunities and boost post-COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery.

The stakeholders noted that it would add to various ongoing schemes aimed at boosting food sufficiency, and also harped on deepening such existing interventions in food production and industrial linkages through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).

The CBN released guidelines for its “Production and Productivity” initiative early in December through the “100 projects for EVERY 100 days” initiative.

A maximum loan of N5bn would be loaned per obligor under the initiative, but any amount above the threshold would require special approval of its management.

The focal activities are existing agro-businesses and projects with the potential to transform and jumpstart the productive base of the economy.

“It is a support to private sector companies with the aim of reducing certain imports, increasing non-oil exports and to improve the FX-generating capacity of the economy,” the bank stated.

It added: “These include manufacturing, agriculture and agro-processing; extractive industries, petrochemicals and renewable energy; healthcare and pharmaceuticals, logistics services and trade-related infrastructure; and any other activities as may be prescribed.”

The apex bank had disclosed that the initiative was designed to support the Federal Government’s drive towards boosting productivity and economic diversification.

The facility is a long-term loan for the acquisition of plant and machinery, as well as working capital.

“The initiative will create the flow of finance and investments to enterprises with the potential to kick-start sustainable economic growth trajectory, accelerate structural transformation, promote diversification, and improve productivity.”

Specific objectives are to catalyse import substitution of targeted commodities; increase local production and productivity; increase non-oil exports; and improve foreign exchange earning capacity of the economy.

“It would also include a decrease in import volume and value of industrial raw materials and increase in the number of jobs created,” the CBN stated.

Recall that CBN has been in the forefront of initiatives to increase food productivity, agro-industrial processing and entrepreneurship activities through existing and new businesses.

Through the ABP, there have been interventions in land preparation, quality seed supply, agro-chemicals, and off-take of rice paddies, maize, cassava, soya beans, and lately wheat and sweet potato, among other crops.

A recent data from CBN indicated that out of the sum for the 2021 wet season farming, N161.18bn was allocated to 770,000 small-holder farmers cultivating seven commodities on 1.10 million hectares in the country.

While evaluating the impact of the interventions on the recovery of the economy post-COVID-19 lockdown, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, explained after the recent Monetary Policy Committee that while harvesting for the 2020 dry season under the programme was rounding off, harvesting activities had commenced for the 2021 wet season cultivation.

Under Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), he said the CBN had supported 657 large-scale agricultural projects, to the tune of N708.39bn, adding that CBN had supported MSMEs across the country by disbursing N134.57 bn to 38,140 beneficiaries under the Agribusiness/Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS).

A former president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Ibrahim Kabir, had explained that ‘‘The CBN intervention has surely helped the food system and without it, the situation would have been more uncomfortable.’’

Chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) and Wheat Farmers Association in Kebbi State, Sahabi Augie, had explained to the Nigerian Tribune that: ‘‘Definitely, the CBN’s schemes, coupled with denial of forex to food importers, were the wisest decisions taken to boost domestic food production and at the same time create market for home-grown food items.’’

Ogun State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Adeola Odedina, said the state recently inaugurated mega Ogun State Cassava Intervention Project in the state with 3,500 candidates presented to CBN and National Cassava Growers Association (NCGA).

He attributed the progress in cassava cultivation and other food crops to support and collaboration of the CBN, saying: ‘‘The governor also approved the clearing of 2,500 hectares of land by the Ministry of Agriculture for candidates who claimed not to have land, which is a requirement for the linkage programme in 16 locations across the state.’’

Meanwhile, an agro-investor, Olunowo Shola, said more crops, such as Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato, plantain, and groundnuts, should be incorporated in the scheme to deepen industrialisation and food security.

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