Before the introduction of the Anchor Borrower Programme in 2015, rice farming was at the verge of collapse in Kebbi State, having dropped to as low as 1.5 tonnes per hectare, and there was a complete absence of off-takers.
Pathetically, in the same year, the price of the commodity crashed, with a bag sold as low as N3,500.
Under this poor price, farmers couldn’t even produce at break-even, not to talk of having a profit margin, a situation that compelled many to abandon rice farming for other alternatives.
Worried by the unsustainable scenario, the state government contacted the Federal Government over the sad trend, which intervened with the investment heavily in rice production, with a view to resolving the situation.
Despite the challenges encountered at the pilot stage of the scheme, the Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP), launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in Kebbi, has recorded significant impact as the state’s annual rice production capacity shot from 700 metric tonnes in 2015 to 3.5million metric tonnes in the last harvest season.
The programme, which was launched in November 17, 2015, was aimed at creating a market for the farmers by establishing a link between companies involved in the processing of agricultural commodities that were produced by small holder farmers.
The Federal Government, through the financing agency of the programme, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), disbursed a loan of N12.8billion to 70,000 smallholder dry season rice farmers in the state.
The revolution in rice production in the state indicated that the farmers did not only improve in their revenue base but also in their technical ability as yield per hectare rose to as high as nine tonnes per hectare.
The number for the beneficiaries of the loan under the scheme swelled from 70,000 to 80,000, also signifying that the project was embraced by the rice farmers.
The CBN is the federal government’s body that bankrolled the loan programme, with each beneficiary expected to get agro inputs and cash, put together as the loan package.
Before the loan was disbursed, an economic cost of production per hectare of rice farm was carried out by the CBN to determine how much a farmer should benefit per hectare of farmland.
Based on the analysis, the CBN pegged the sum of N210,000 per hectare, suggesting that each farmer only gets agro inputs and cash covering the pegged amount.
Having arrived at the cost of production per hectare for 70,000 rice farmers, that brought the total amount required for the loan to over N14billion. However, the CBN could only release the sum of N12.8billion.
Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday, chairman of the state chapter of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Muhammad Sahabi Augie, said before the introduction of the ABP, the association had in its register, a list of rice farmers numbering over 120,000, out of whom 70,000 beneficiaries were selected after meeting some requirements.
He said part of the requirement for the loan was that the farmlands must be available for assessment; farm size, location, farmer’s ward, phone number and Bank Verification Number (BVN), noting that the greatest challenge encountered during the assessment was the inadequacy of time, considering the fact that agriculture is time-bound.
He noted that when the project was launched, the scheme was only meant to cover smallholder farmers, those with an ownership of half or a hectare of farmland. He added that it was later expanded to cover those with five hectares.
“Since the introduction of the ABP, rice production has kept on increasing. By 2016, the state recorded a total production in rice, to the tune of 1.2 million metric tonnes as against 700 metric tons in the preceding year. Since then, it has been appreciating, with the last production standing at 3.5million metric tonnes.
“In 2016, it took the buyers three months to finish rice produced in the state. This signifies the quantum of the produce harvested.
“Anchor Borrower does not only improve the revenue drive of the farmers, but also their technical capacity. Before the programme, production per hectare was only 1.5 tonnes, whereas at present it is as high as nine tonnes per hectare,” he said.
Also speaking recently at the rice farmers stakeholders meeting in Birnin Kebbi, an official of the programme in the state, Abubakar Bello, cleared the air, saying N12.8billion was released to the Bank of Agriculture for onward disbursement as loan to the rice farmers in the state as against N14b and N17 b earlier speculated.
Bello pointed out that before the loan was disbursed to the beneficiaries, an economic cost of production analysis was carried out, and that the cost of rice production per hectare of a farm land was pegged at N210,000. He added that it was what each qualified farmer got, which covered the cost of inputs and the amount of cash to be disbursed.
“Therefore, N210,000 for 70,000 farmers amounted to N14.5b, but the Central Bank of Nigeria released what we call the Participating Finance Agency (PDF), Bank of Agriculture, the sum of N12.8b for disbursement.
“Apart from the significant improvement in food security, the programme also reduced unemployment. Generally, the economic base of the state has greatly improved, looking at the number of rice mills that sprang up.”