Unlocking Nigeria’s agricultural potential via sustained CBN interventions



Unlocking Nigeria’s agricultural potential via sustained CBN interventions

By Mustapha Sumaila, Nigeria News Agency

Before the discovery of oil at Oloibiri, Bayelsa in January 1956, agriculture was the major source of the country’s revenue.

With the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in other parts and subsequent exploitation, contribution from the agriculture sector continued to dwindle further as the sector was neglected.

However, agriculture may soon regain its pride of place as a result of policies introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

One of the policies is the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), designed to develop, promote and boost the value chain for local production of rice.

States with land suitable for rice production keyed into the programme in order to benefit from the intervention funds made available by the CBN.

Available data showed that the CBN spent N146 billion to support 849,000 rice farmers across the country.

The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, recently held a strategic meeting with state governors to brief them on the apex bank’s strategies to achieve food security.

Emefiele listed rice mills funded by the apex bank to include the WACOT and Labana Rice Mills in Kebbi, and Umza Rice Mill in Kano.

He reiterated that the CBN would focus on sectors that would massively create jobs, and would help reduce Nigeria’s import bills.

“The bank will maintain a keen interest in supporting the creation of an enabling environment to trigger private sector investment.

“Our emphasis will focus on value chain financing in 10 priority commodities. These products have been responsible for a significant share of our country’s food import bills in the last couple of years,” he said.

Emefiele said that the CBN invested about N30 billion to enhance oil palm production in the country.

He said that the money was disbursed to six oil palm companies to support their expansion programmes.

He listed the companies as: PZ Wimar, Biase Oil Company, Okomu Oil Company, Presco Oil and SIAT Ltd, adding that application for Ada Palm was being expected.

The CBN governor disclosed that about 40 applications from investors across the country for cultivation of 126,694 hectares were being considered.

Emefiele put the country’s annual demand for palm oil at 2.5 million metric tonnes, while local production stood at 1.25million metric tonnes, leaving a gap of 1.25million metric tonnes per annum.

“This gap is met through imports. The CBN’s oil palm initiative is aimed at closing the gap and also positioning Nigeria to incrementally export palm oil products to neighboring African countries and beyond.

“Closing the identified gap would require bringing about 312,500 hectares under modern cultivation at an estimated yield of four metric tonnes per hectare.

“Our target is to ensure that a minimum of 1.4 million hectares is put under oil palm cultivation in three years.

“As a step in this direction, the bank had met with 14 governors who pledged to make available 100,000 hectares in each state.

“We currently have a total of 904,624 hectares which are available in the states for allocation and investors have been matched with the states of interest to process necessary documentation and titling requirement.

“The investors are to be funded from the bank’s intervention programme and some of the states are, however, slow in making the land available to these investors,” he said.

According to him, NIFOR, flagship of oil palm research in Nigeria, is being rejuvenated to enable it meet the seedling needs of investors.

On tomato production, the CBN governor said that he held meetings with key tomato processing and packaging companies in June, July and August.

He said that it was resolved that paste and puree smugglers should be decisively dealt with, using tools legally available to CBN in order to make local production competitive.

Emefiele said it was agreed that the bank should support their efforts in the acquisition of land for their projects in states with huge potential for production.

The CBN governor disclosed that in Jigawa, Sonia Foods Ltd was allocated 2,380 hectares at Birniwa for its project.

He said that the CBN was currently funding about 18,000 farmers under the ABP to produce hybrid tomatoes for processing by Sonia Foods Ltd.

“Sonia Foods is setting up a 1,000 metric tonnes per day processing and packaging plant in the state.

“This project is expected to create 110,000 jobs; Dangote Tomatoes has a 1,200-tonnes-per-day tomato processing plant in Kadawa, Kano State.

“We are funding about 40,000 farmers to meet the tomato needs of the processing plant under the ABP. Inputs worth N4.18 billion were procured for the initiative.

“The tomato processing plant owned by Savanna Integrated Farms in Gombe is being reactivated and set to commence operation very soon.

“About 18,000 farmers were cleared to participate as out-growers under the ABP to supply raw materials to the factory,” Emefiele explained.

The governors who were present at the briefing commended the CBN for the various interventions to boost agricultural production in the country.

They also raised issues that should be addressed in order to achieve the objectives of the various intervention programmes.

Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue, who spoke, said without stable power supply, the CBN’s stride would not yield the desired result.

Ortom explained that power was a big challenge and one of the major reasons many industries were folding up in the country.

“This country has the potential to produce everything we need, and the advantage we have is our population. We can produce what we will consume before we talk of exporting them.

” I want CBN to address this problem, because it is a big challenge to Nigerians especially the organised private sector,” he said.

In his own contribution, Gov.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, emphasised the need to develop what he described as ‘owners market,’ where infrastructure would be built to help provide facilities for agriculture value chain.

“CBN should look at how to build massive warehouses, huge storage and cooling facilities, so that we will be sure that what the farmers are producing can be preserved.

“Infrastructure is necessary to facilitate the entire value chain in order to get the kind of price we are looking for,” he added.

Governor of Borno, Prof. Babagana Zulum, in his contribution, stressed the need to address the problem of insurgency in the North-East that had devastated the people and triggered humanitarian crisis that affected both social and economic lives.(Features)



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