Dutse — The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it cut down bills on wheat, milk, rice, tomato and sugar in the past five years to $698.6 million.
Olatunde Akande, the Personal Assistant to the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, made this disclosure yesterday at the Special Town Hall Meeting organised by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in Dutse, Jigawa State.
Akande said the figure represented almost 50 per cent cut on $1.424 billion incurred on imported foods in 2013.
He said some positive impacts had been recorded since government banned the importation of these commodities.
According to him, at the end of 2015, the figure reduced by 30 per cent, as $971 million was spent importing the commodities.
He disclosed that N160 billion had been disbursed to 850,000 smallholders farmers under the CBN Anchors' Borrowers Scheme since the programme was conceived in November last year, to assist farmers in the cultivation of Rice, Cotton, Maize, Cassava, Groundnut, Sorghum, Cocoa, Palm Oil, Tomato and Soybeans.
The theme of the 15th Town Hall meeting, attended by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and his counterparts in Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu; Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh and Trade and Investment (State) Aishat Abubakar, was "Agriculture and Agric Value Chain".
Ogbeh said that in the first year of the CBN Anchors' Borrowers Programme, N294 billion was yielded as turnover by the rice farmers from the initial N40 billion given as loan by the apex bank, adding that the reduction of interest rate on lending to farmers to nine per cent has ignited a revolution in agriculture in the country.
Ogbeh said with the reform of the Bank of Agriculture, which will be completed by the end of this year, the government is targeting five per cent lending rate to farmers.
He disclosed that Nigeria exported $35 million worth of Hibiscus to Mexico and Russia last year, while China is demanding for shiploads of Nigerian White Sorghum.
Mohammed, who thanked Jigawa State Governor, Badaru Abubakar for hosting the meeting, identified agriculture as one of the success stories of the Buhari administration.
The minister debunked the report that Nigeria imported 400,000 metric tonnes more than the quantity of rice imported in 2017, saying the 2018 US Department of Agriculture World Markets and Trade Report
posited that Nigeria's local rice production is dropping.
"Figures obtained from India and Thailand, both dominant rice exporters to Nigeria, indicate that as at September, Thailand had so far exported about 5,161 metric tonnes of
rice to Nigeria, while India sold only 426 MT as at July. Let's recall that as at Sept 2015, rice importation from Thailand was 644,131 MT.
But by Sept 2017, the importation had fallen to a mere 22,000 MT. That's over 90 per cent drop," Mohammed said.
He revealed there is a conspiracy to thwart Nigeria's push toward self-sufficiency in rice, saying in 2015, federal government was put under undue pressure to import rice ostensibly to make up for a massive shortage, when in the real sense there was a glut of paddy rice produced locally.