The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has pledged to increase the funding of the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) due to the success of the programme in the North East.
Mr Edwin Ezelu, CBN Deputy Director of Development and Finance, made the promise on Tuesday in Yola at a formal ceremony marking the repayment of the ABP loan given to the North East Commodity Association (NECAS).
“This is in light of the success of the ABP, with the repayment of N1.5 billion and the cultivation of 37,904 100kg. bags of maize, sorghum, rice and soyabeans, which is equivalent to 3,709 tonnes, by farmers under NECAS,’’ he said.
Ezelu reiterated the commitment of the CBN in ensuring the timely release of funds to farmers, particularly those who had proved their worth, adding that the bank’s resolve was aimed at facilitating the achievement of the Federal Government’s plans to boost the country’s food security and agricultural value chain.
“Since 1977, CBN has been carrying out interventions in the agricultural development of Nigeria.
“As part of efforts to tackle the challenges confronting agriculture, agribusiness and smallholder farmers, who are the drivers of the nation’s agricultural value chain, the Anchor Borrowers Programme was born,’’ he said.
Ezelu stressed that the CBN would not relent in its efforts to support the country’s farmers, saying that ABP was part of bank’s strategies aimed at creating scientific solutions to the challenges facing Nigeria’s food security.
He said that the North East success story would serve as an eye-opener to farmers, while encouraging them to embrace the programme in efforts to expand their farming activities and boost food production.
"It has become imperative because it is aimed at creating economic linkages between smallholder farmers and reputable large-scale processors, with a view to increasing agricultural output and significantly improving capacity utilisation of integrated mills,’’ he said.
Also speaking, Mr Ameh Owoicho, Executive Director, Credit and Empowerment (North-Central), Bank of Agriculture (BOA), said that the main goal of BOA was to assist farmers in their efforts to ensure food security and feed a rising population.
He added that the bank also wanted to improve the income of smallholder farmers, who comprised the largest segment of the country’s farmers.
Owoicho, therefore, expressed the bank’s commitment to disbursing ABP funds or any other agricultural funds approved by the CBN, within five days of receipt of applications from the apex bank.
“I assure the farmers, who are under the BOA window of ABP programmes, that they would have access to their funds without any delay once the drawdown conditions have been met.
“BOA is concerned with the timely disbursement of funds to farmers very seriously, as this helps to ensure timely repayment of loans, which is also a critical component of its mandate,’’ he said.
Alhaji Sadiq Deware, the National President of NECAS, said that the N1.5 billion loan repayment was part of the N8.9 billion ABP loan granted to NECAS in 2018 for one year at nine per cent interest rate.
He said that that the money was paid to NECAS — the loan guarantor for the farmers – which then deposited it at Bank of Agriculture and later forwarded it to the CBN.
Deware commended CBN and BOA for creating the cashless programme which had significantly improved agricultural production in the North East, while encouraging more youths to engage in farming.
He said that under the first phase of the programme, the farmers produced 26,238 bags of maize, 7,561 bags of sorghum, 2,647 bags of rice and 1,458 bags of soyabeans, totalling 37,904 100kg. bags.
Deware noted that the programme had appreciably improved the livelihoods of the people in the North East, adding that in some states, some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were employed to remove impurities from grains and bag them.
He said that each of the IDPs that were engaged received over N3,000 per day as wages, not including the perks.
Deware said that Borno was not included in the first phase of the programme because of the insecurity in the state.
“Now that there is relative peace, the service providers are mapping farmlands for farmers to enable them to participate in the dry season farming,’’ he said.
He said that ABP had recorded many achievements, adding that in Adamawa, for instance, more than 5,000 persons had benefitted from the programme; while over N2 billion had been spent on its projects.
The ABP, which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, aims at creating linkages between companies, which are involved in crop processing, and smallholder farmers in certain agricultural commodities.
Commenting on the programme, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, once said: “As at October 2018, a total of 862,069 farmers cultivating about 835,239 hectares, across 16 different commodities, have so far benefited from the Anchor Borrowers Programme, which has generated over 2.5 million jobs across the country