The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Bank of Agriculture, Prof. Danbala Danju, in an interview with journalists, says rice importation will soon end in Nigeria.
What is the Anchor Rice Borrower programme of the current government all about and how will it impact on the nation’s economy?
The Anchor Rice Borrower programme is aimed at boosting domestic production. The country has been importing rice and because of the foreign exchange and the focus of the new administration to try to convince Nigerians to go into farming, the Central Bank of Nigeria and Bank of Agriculture came up with the Anchor Rice Borrower programme.
In the case of Kebbi State, we have pilot programmes because some of the commercial banks did not consider this as profitable. The Bank of Agriculture is the best place to be because it is a specialist agricultural development bank that is over 42 years old and has more than 137 branches across the 36 states of the federation.
Each farmer has a budget of about N210,000 per hectare disbursement, which is in two forms and largely, they are given inputs like seeds, fertiliser, pumps and about N49,000 as working capital. Then you have to consider labour for land preparation and day to day management of the rice production. Not all the 75,000 farmers we targeted collected the average amount of N210,000 per hectare because some of them had their water pumps or other inputs. But on the average, each of the farmers was targeted to receive N210,000 in estimated cost of cultivation of a hectare of paddy during the dry season. We targeted to have more than 300,000 metric tons of rice being produced over the dry season period. And because of the success of the pilot scheme in Kebbi, the Federal Government has directed that we work closely with the Central Bank of Nigeria to target about 13 states in the programme as well as in wheat production, tomato and other staple crops.
Primarily for now, the focus is on rice to help achieve the current objective of self sufficiency in domestic rice production in about one to two years which President Muhammadu Buhari has promised the country. The Bank of Agriculture is the main implementing agency. We have our workers, who are being spread all over the country, particularly in the 13 states of the federation. We are targeting different heritage farmers to achieve domestic sufficiency in rice and other crops. In a couple of weeks, we are targeting about 300,000 farmers that would be supported under the programme to produce paddy. We are entering into some agreements with off-takers, largely private sector millers, and in some cases, state governments.
You said that the programme is meant for small scale farmers, how do you ensure that the big time farmers do not hijack it?
There is a farmers’ registration. All the farmers had to register with the Bank of Agriculture. We have to collect their biometric and in addition to that, we issued them with BVN so that we can have the identity of the farmers. The target is for the small scale farmers who have an average farmland of one hectare to a maximum of five hectares. This is what we have been doing and this is what we are going to do. There is a private company that is partnering with our bank to properly register and identify the farmers to avoid duplication.
For the large scale famers, we are coming up with a special facility for them under a new arrangement for funding agriculture in our country. They have a different interest structure; it is a different instrument that we are using. Under the programme, we are largely targeting the smallholder farmers. Like I have said, there is a rigorous identification system, which requires farmers to register with our branches, and they need to have BVN before they can be given inputs in terms of seeds, fertilisers as well as working capital. So far, it has been quite successful and that is why we are trying to replicate it in other parts of the country.
How has the programme been received in crises prone areas like the North-East and recently the Niger-Delta?
We did not start at once in all the states of the federation; we started in Kebbi and we learnt from that. We are now strategising on how to target 13 states of the federation with respect to rice. The lessons are very clear from Kebbi; we need robust farmer identification. In the past, people would collect money and then divert it for other purposes; this time round, we are disbursing mainly in kind. We give farmers high quality seeds, pesticides, fertilisers and some kind of training to make sure they adopt the correct agronomic practices in order to have the expected yields.
Traditionally, they used to have one ton of paddy per hectare, but with the new high seeds given to them as well as better agronomic practices, they now could have five tons per hectare, which is an improvement. So they are able to make lots of money. They can now pay us back and we can recycle to reach more farmers.
So, what we have started with is the pilot programme, which is now going to be scaled up in all the states of the federation that have comparative advantage in rice production.
You talked about measures to avoid diversion of funds, but what are you doing to prevent the diversion of produce?
In the past, people would have been given N210,000 per hectare, asked to buy their inputs, do what they want and then come back and pay. Now, under the current programme, we don’t pay farmers directly. Before we give money to farmers, we first have to identify who the farmers are. And once farmers are identified, they register with the bank and there is a committee made up of our representative, farmers’ representatives – the Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria, and the off-takers, so that we identify who the farmer is. We have got quality inputs and other seeds company that supply farmers with high quality inputs. So this way, we don’t give money, we give farmers the inputs they need and the inputs are high quality from very quality sources.
The only money we give them is largely about one-fifth of the amount, which is for land clearing, preparation, weeding and transportation. And the money is also given out in instalments; we don’t give all at a go. There are stages; we have the land preparation stage and planting stage. We don’t also give the inputs at once. For instance, fertilisers or pesticides are given at different stages in the production process. So, it is a controlled process.
Do you think this programme is sustainable?
The sustainability of this programme, first of all, is in the module. For a programme to be sustainable, it has to be financially profitable. Farmers in the past had no guaranteed source of credit, now if you’re registered with the Bank of Agriculture, you’ll have the credit to produce your paddy. In the past, they had no guaranteed market, no off-takers. So now that they are registered and they have a ready-made market, the ban on importation of rice makes it very lucrative for them (farmers).
We hope that the Federal Government would sustain the ban on importation of rice because if you open the gate to importation of cheaper and subsidised rice from other economies, it will undermine the profitability of existing rice mills and in turn the profitability of the out growers. So, we hope that the issue of ban on importation of rice would be sustained, and also issues of exchange rate will be handled well. Curiously, an overvalued exchange rate makes it cheaper to import rice, but if we allow for a more realistic pricing of foreign currency or a more appropriate value for the naira, it is good for farmers because instead of importing, they will be encouraged to produce more.
Also, I think there is the question of infrastructure. As we are producing rice currently, the productivity must be enhanced. In this case, more research in terms of output of the seeds. We need high yielding seed varieties of rice and we also need to provide the irrigation, transport infrastructure and the capacity of existing rice mills need to be expanded and new ones established. If we are able to implement all these measures, I think not only will we be able to achieve domestic self-sufficiency but we will also be able to export to other countries in less than two years.
How much are you giving out in the project?
We started during the last dry season, but I can’t give you the total figure. After the pilot scheme in Kebbi, we are now planning to go to the 13 states of the federation and we have a target number of about 300,000 farmers. If you have 300,000 farmers on an average price of about N180,000 per hectares, you can see the amount we are requesting for. We are requesting for huge funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria so that we can support the small scale farmers. We also plan to request for some money from the Central Bank of Nigeria to support large scale farmers. Simply, we are working with different states to identify the target number of farmers in each of the states. And on the basis of this agreement with the Central Bank of Nigeria, we will request for funding. We have been assured by the CBN that once we present the list of farmers with BVN, we’ll be supported with the requisite sum of money.
Is the programme only meant for dry season farming?
No, it is not. Now, we have started with dry season, we’re going into the wet season. For the wet season, in the next couple of weeks, we are targeting 300,000 farmers. After the wet season, we are planning for the dry season. So, it is going to be for both wet and dry seasons.
Experts Urge Swift Government Action on Nigeria’s Untapped N3 Trillion Logistics Sector
Experts at the Courier and Logistics Management Institute conference in Lagos have emphasized the critical importance of the overlooked logistics, courier, and transport sector in Nigeria, valued at over N3 trillion.
During the event themed “Logistics Solutions and National Infrastructure Development,” the CLMI Executive Chairman, Prof. Simon Emeje, highlighted the urgent need for the federal government to prioritize this sector, which remains relatively untapped on a global scale.
Emeje underscored the sector’s significance, stating, “Any country that does not pay attention to logistics, courier, and the transport sector cannot survive.
The government must not ignore this sector because it is the bedrock of any economy.”
The logistics, courier, transport, and management industry boasts an average asset worth over N3 trillion, offering substantial potential for job creation.
Emeje emphasized that commerce is crippled without effective logistics, illustrating the importance of the sector in facilitating trade, enhancing the supply chain, creating jobs, and propelling economic growth.
Despite its undeniable importance, the Nigerian logistics sector faces hindrances such as infrastructural deficits and weak government policies, preventing it from reaching its full potential.
Emeje called for immediate attention to address these challenges and unlock the sector’s capacity to create millions of employment opportunities for Nigerian youth.
Former Minister of Communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu, urged the institute to draft a comprehensive proposal for government adoption, offering assistance in facilitating engagement.
Both Shittu and Prof. Emeje called on the Federal Government to establish a dedicated ministry to foster an enabling environment for Courier and Logistics Management, drawing parallels to the recognition given to the entertainment industry.
President Tinubu Seeks Senate Approval for $8.6 Billion and €100 Million Borrowing Plan
President Bola Tinubu’s administration has formally requested the approval of the Nigerian Senate for a borrowing plan totaling $8.6 billion and €100 million.
The request was presented to the Senate through a letter read during the plenary by the Senate President, GodsWill Akpabio.
According to the letter, the proposed funds are integral to the federal government’s 2022-2024 external borrowing plan, previously sanctioned by the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.
Tinubu clarified that the projects earmarked for funding through this loan cut across diverse sectors, emphasizing their selection based on rigorous economic evaluations and their anticipated contributions to national development.
The letter highlighted, “The projects and programs in the borrowing plan were selected based on economic evaluations as well as the expected contribution to the socio-economic development of the country, including employment generation, and skills acquisition.”
The specified sectors earmarked for development include infrastructure, agriculture, health, water supply, roads, security, and employment generation, along with financial management reforms.
The borrowing plan’s comprehensive approach aims to address critical needs and propel the nation’s progress.
President Tinubu emphasized the urgency of the Senate’s approval, stating, “Given the nature of these facilities, and the need to return the country to normalcy, it has become necessary for the Senate to consider and approve the 2022-2024 external abridged borrowing plan to enable the government to deliver its responsibility to Nigerians.”
This appeal follows previous successful requests, including the National Assembly’s approval of an over $800 million loan for the National Social Safety Network Programme in August.
Also, the assembly greenlighted the 2022 Supplementary Appropriations Act of N819 million to provide palliatives to Nigerians, mitigating the impact of fuel subsidy removal.
As the deliberations unfold, the Senate’s decision on this substantial borrowing plan will play a pivotal role in shaping Nigeria’s economic trajectory.
Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline Construction Set for 2024
Nigeria’s Gas Minister, Ekperikpe Ekpo, announced the scheduled commencement of the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline construction in 2024.
The revelation came during a meeting with a delegation from Morocco, led by Ambassador Moha Ou Ali Tagma, on Monday in Abuja.
The Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline, a colossal undertaking covering 5,600 kilometers and traversing 13 African countries, is poised to transform the energy landscape of the region.
Spanning nations from Nigeria to Morocco and reaching Europe, the pipeline aims to facilitate gas transportation, enhance economic integration, combat desertification, and contribute significantly to the reduction of carbon emissions.
Ekpo, expressing Nigeria’s readiness for the project, stated, “I believe by 2024, we will conclude on it.”
He emphasized the importance of natural gas in the context of climate change, highlighting its role in ensuring low carbon emissions and fostering prosperity.
The pipeline, originating at Brass Island in Nigeria and reaching the northern region of Morocco, will interlink with the existing Maghreb European Pipeline, connecting Algeria to Spain.
Mele Kyari, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), underscored the commitment to a consistent gas supply and the provision of necessary infrastructure.
Despite the ambitious vision, some analysts have raised concerns about the viability of the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline. Notably, the project has encountered delays, with a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2016 and 2018, followed by another in 2022.
Analysts, including oil and gas expert Dan D Kunle, have stressed the need for comprehensive studies to assess economic impact, financial returns, and agreements with transit countries.
While challenges and skepticism persist, Kyari has expressed confidence in securing funding for the project.
However, alternative perspectives suggest exploring investments in LNG plants, regasification facilities in Moroccan ports, and LNG vessel carriers for a more flexible and globally accessible energy solution.
As Nigeria and Morocco navigate this ambitious venture, meticulous planning and strategic considerations will be crucial for ensuring its success.
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