COVID-19: Stakeholders Laud CBN’s Initiatives On Agriculture

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LAGOS – As the Coronavirus pan­demic continue to ravage the world, stakeholders in the agricultural sec­tor have lauded the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), for its various initiatives towards agriculture.

They said that some of these initiatives such as the import restriction and emphasis on the home-grown foods, driven by the CBN on behalf of the Federal Government are indeed the sav­ing grace for food security at this time of COVID-19 pandemic.

They said that the resilience the country has built unwittingly against the COVID-19 pandemic is a glowing testimony to the fact the ini­tiatives have yielded a good result.

Dr. Victor Iyama, National Presi­dent of Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria (FACAN), said that the Nigeria’s im­port restriction and emphasis on the home-grown foods have really helped the country at this critical time.

“Definitely without gainsay­ing, we all know that the Nigeria’s import restriction and emphasis on the home-grown foods is a sav­ing grace for the country at this time. We thank God for that initia­tive, it is a pointer to the fact that we can feed ourselves as a nation and we don’t need to depend on other countries to feed ourselves.

“This pandemic is a blessing in disguise; it is for us to now be more serious with agriculture. It is a pointer to us, we cannot go to other country for food, other countries should be looking up to us,” the FACAN president said.

Iyama further stated that the CBN’s Anchors Borrowers Pro­gramme (ABP) has impacted posi­tively and increased the agricultural produce captured under the scheme.

“The only thing we are working on is to see how we can build preser­vative warehouse where most of the goods can be kept at the farm gate, so that our farmers will be able to preserve some of their production.

“We must make sure we farm this crop three times a year; that means we cannot continue to depend on rain-fed agricultural production, we should go beyond that, we must learn how to depend on irrigations. We should work to­wards using our river basins.

“Government should provide rural infrastructure and, of course, find ways to preserve our agricultural produce because 55 per cent of them goes to waste. It’s not that we are not producing, but post-harvest losses are part of the challenges,” he added.

He urged government to find a way to reduce agricultural loan to five per cent, as it is seen in other climes where agricultural loans is not more than two per cent.

“Because of our peculiar con­dition we will be looking at 5 per cent and not two per cent, there are some places like Japan where agro loan is zero percent for farming.

In his own view, Biodun Ona­laja, Managing Director of Okun Rice, stated that the CBN’s initia­tives have helped the nation tre­mendously.

According to him, Nigeria be­ing the giant of Africa, there is no country it can turn to now for food supply as many countries are looking up to Nigeria.

“I will say that it has helped us tremendously and this time of COVID-19 because as the giant of Africa that we are, which country in Africa or in the world now with this pandemic will come to our aids now.

“Thank God for Mr. President’s initiatives on Anchor Borrowers Scheme. My company is one of the beneficiaries and with the assistant of CBN that drives this scheme and give it a thorough monitoring, we can say it is a success because it involved asso­ciations such as the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) and Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN),” he said.

Onalaja further attested to the fact that the various initiatives of the CBN would definitely re­duce food importation, because the initiatives seek to encourage local production.

He said that wheat imports is a political issue, that Nigeria does not have the capacity currently to meet its wheat demand, and stakeholders, including the government are not manifesting enough political will to invest in the local production.

“Wheat imports, take it from me, is a political issue. Nigeria does not have the capacity current­ly to meet its wheat demand and stakeholders including the govern­ment are not manifesting enough political will to invest in the local production of wheat,” he added.

Edobong Akpabio, an Agropre­neur and a trainer, in her opinion noted that the import restriction and border closure have helped to increase local food production which has saved the nation from calamity at the break of this COVID-19 crisis.

She said that maize and rice productions have greatly in­creased as a result of the ABP.

Edobong noted that the strate­gic grain reserve the Federal Gov­ernment spoke about recently has been a factor of the increase in production.

She added that the intentions of the Federal Government re­garding the vehicle of agriculture to diversify the nation’s economy have been articulated in the Agri­culture Promotion Policy (APP).

Emmanuel Ijewere, Vice President of the Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), said that the initiatives of the Central Bank are very good.

He said that those good initia­tives would stand if the various challenges farmers are going through right now are attended to.

He said that government must always carry the private sector play­ers along in their various policies for the betterment of the sector.

On the Anchors Borrowers Pro­gramme which links the farmers to the off takers, Ijewere said that the off-takers are having challenge of logistics right now as they can­not transport their produce.

“We need to look at this and ad­dress this challenge and also create discussion between the public and the private sector. While I appreci­ate what the Central Bank is do­ing, they are doing very well; they need to pay more attention to the fears, worries and challenges of the private sector. The private sector should be carried along in all the government policies,” he said.

Ijewere stated that it is difficult right now to use the nation’s old ex­perience to deal with this new situa­tion, that this is a situation the coun­try have never encountered before.

“As far as food is concern in Ni­geria, we have good land, we have good people but this pandemic has created a problem. There are some states that have been shut down, La­gos, Abuja and Ogun are completely shut down, but there are some other states that are not shut down.

In other states that are not shut down, what we have seen is that in some cases some overzealous law enforcement agencies forcing farmers out of their farms.

He said that the logistics of mov­ing foods from the north to the south and south to the east is complicated.

“Along the road there are a lot of checkpoints, and companies that are producing the inputs like seeds, fertilizers and those herbicides are unable to move around to supply farmers that are in the remote ar­eas. The consequences of this will be that there will be smaller harvest­ing and it will lead to food shortage. Ijewere further stated that govern­ment should take the issue of food as seriously as health issue.

“Government should take the is­sue of food as seriously as health issues because even those who are infected and those who are not in­fected will eat, while government must take the issue of health seri­ous and improve on it, government must provide for an understanding of the food value chain seriously so that there will be proper movement of food around,” he said.

He added that if there is no free movement of food stuff, the prices will continue to increase because of the speculations of food shortage.

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