Amid high food prices, Buhari says agric initiative successful

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The president says the ABP initiative has “resulted in a sharp decline in the nation’s major food import bill.”

President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday said his government has financed 2.5 million small-holder farmers under the Anchors Borrower Programme (ABP) launched in 2015.

Mr Buhari said this during a broadcast to commemorate this year’s Democracy Day.

“This initiative supported local production of rice, maize, cotton and cassava. Government financed 2.5 million small-holder farmers cultivating about 3.2 million hectares of farmland all over the country and created 10 million direct and indirect jobs,” he said.

The president’s claim, however, contradicts an earlier pronouncement made earlier by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele, on the same subject.

Mr Emefiele, while unveiling the 2020 wet season harvest aggregation and flag-off of the 2021 wet season input distribution in Ekiti State, said over 3.1 million farmers have been financed under the scheme so far.

“A total of 3,107,890 farmers had been financed for the cultivation of 3,801,397 hectares across 21 commodities through 23 Participating Financial Institutions in the 36 States of the Federation and FCT, from the inception of the programme till date,” Mr Emefiele said.

While explaining further, Mr Buhari, said the ABP initiative launched has “resulted in a sharp decline in the nation’s major food import bill from $2.23 billion in 2014 to US$0.59billion by the end of 2018.”

“Rice import bill alone dropped from $1 billion to $18.5 million annually,” he added.

Nigeria’s food import bill has declined not only because of the ABP initiative, but because the government closed the borders and has denied importers forex for food importation.

While the import bill has fallen, food inflation in the country has reached unprecedented levels. Food prices have consistently been on the rise in the last few years, and has reached the highest rates in over a decade.

In November 2015, Mr Buhari launched the ABP to provide farm inputs in kind and cash to small-holder farmers (SHFs) to boost agricultural production and for the country to reverse its negative balance of payments on food.

Farmers captured under this programme include those cultivating cereals (rice, maize, wheat etc.) cotton, roots and tubers, sugarcane, tree crops, legumes, tomato and livestock.

The loans are disbursed through any of the Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and Microfinance Banks (MFBs), all of which the programme recognises as Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs).

According to the guidelines of the programme, upon harvest, benefiting farmers are expected to repay their loans with harvested produce which must cover the loan principal and interest) to an ‘anchor’ who pays the cash equivalent to the farmer’s account.



Source: Premium Times

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