The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under its Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) on June 11, in Bwari, Abuja, launched its nationwide distribution of farm inputs to maize farmers for the 2020 wet season farming.
The apex bank said that the programme which targets to support 70, 000 maize farmers across the country has the ultimate goal of boosting maize production in the country.
It would be recalled that the ABP was launched by President MuhammaduBuhari on Nov. 17, 2015 to create a linkage between anchor companies involved in processing key agricultural commodities and small holder farmers.
The focus of the ABP is to provide support to farmers in form of loans and farm inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, sprayers and technical support to grow their crops.
The programme targets farmers who produce cereals, roots, tubers and tree crops.
Others are legumes, livestock, cotton, sugarcane and tomato.
No doubt, Nigeria is a large producer of maize with a large population also depending on it as the main staple food crop.
According to 2018 report by International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), a non-profit institution that generates innovations to meet Africa’s challenges of hunger, malnutrition and poverty, the largest African producer of maize is Nigeria with over 33 million tonnes followed by South Africa, Egypt and Ethiopia.
“It is an important cereal which most families in the country use as basic food for both domestic consumption and animal feed as all parts of the crop can be used for food and non-food products,’’ a maize farmer, Malam Suleiman Modibbo said.
Modibbo, however, complained that maize farmers in Nigeria are apparently faced with numerous challenges ranging from lack of fund to purchase farm inputs to attacks by pests and diseases on their farms.
According to him, these challenges lead to farmers’ apathy toward maize production in the country.
“Maize was not produced in commercial quantities to feed the industries, instead, industries import maize to meet up with production; maize farmers were relegated to subsistence farming,’’ Modibbo noted.
But the narrative changed with the launch of the ABP’s support to assist Nigerian farmers so that the nation can feed and have excess that can be exported to earn foreign exchange.
While distributing farm inputs under the CBN-Maize Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, MrNuhuMuazu, Head Development Finance Office, CBN, tasked farmers to make judicious use of the support to boost maize production and guarantee food security in the country.
“For years, we have been using our hard earned foreign exchange to import food that we can produce and by doing so, we are importing unemployment.
“We are also empowering farmers in other countries at the expense of the farmers in Nigeria.
“Hence, the Federal Government said no, we have to feed ourselves, but we have to support our farmers with the necessary finances that will assist them to produce,’’Muazu said.
He reminded the farmers that the funds given to them are by no means free money.
According to him, the participating banks, which work with the CBN lend to anchors at nine per cent per annum for onward disbursement to the farmers.
Muazu said that the loan would be repaid by the farmers after the crops had been harvested which must cover the loan principal and interest.
“Use the inputs, harvest and pay back to give other people the opportunity to access the loans,’’ Muazu said.
Dr Edwin Uche, National President, Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN), said that each of the 70,000 maize farmers would receive N182,000 per hectare.
According to him, this N182,000 has a composition of input and cash, technical support, extension support, land preparation and a lot of exposure embedded in it.
“It is an encapsulation of a lot of things at a time, so the farmer has an opportunity of a whole new experience,’’Uche said.
He emphasised that the association was passionate about empowering the farmers to enable them operate in accordance with international best practices.
“This is essential to enable them repay their loans and make profit, so that they can come out of poverty and empower their families and build the local economy.
“As an association, we put up performance indicator, but as a farmer, you must grow from strength to strength.
“We want to see people move from stage to stage and that is the whole essence of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
“Considering the quality of seeds we are giving the farmers, we are expecting a minimum of five tonnes per hectare and when a farmer is repaying a loan with about two tonnes per hectare, he has three tonnes to play around with,’’Uche said.
On his part, Dr Victor Inyama, National President, Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria (FACAN), commended CBN for the programme.
Inyama urged farmers to leverage on the support for agricultural development in the country.
While stressing the need for them to maximise the use of the inputs, he cautioned them of the consequences of selling the inputs.
One of the participating banks, Eco Bank, assured the farmers of the bank’s commitment to collaborate with CBN to facilitate easy access to the loans.
NkiruNgwu, Area Manager, Eco Bank, FCT, said “we will work with the farmers to enable them achieve their expectations’’.
John Gabaya, Chairman, Bwari Area Council called for total ban of maize importation.
He argued that maize farmers in the country can produce enough maize grains to service local demand.
Gabaya, therefore, urged intending importers of maize to key into the ABP, access loan at single digit, source maize locally and create jobs.
“Importing maize grain in any form is counterproductive to the agricultural development of Nigeria and should be discouraged in its entirety,’’ Gabaya said.
MrAbubakarMatawalle, representative of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) said that the ABP has been a success in maize production in Nigeria.
“In fact, Nigerian maize farmers have really felt the presence of government through this programme. It is however important for farmers to ensure that they repay their loans so that the banks can lend more.
“The government on the other hand should strengthen the ABP, widen the coverage to accommodate more farmers and device more means to get the farmers to repay their loans, impose stiffer penalties for defaulters.’’
A beneficiary of the programme, MalamShehuAliyu, expressed delight over the support programme and said that it would promote agricultural development in the country.
“The programme will make things easy for farmers and will go a long way in improving food production,’’Aliyu said.