No fewer than 12,000 farmers are to benefit from the Rice Pyramid Programme in Ekiti State, as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Tuesday flagged off the programme in the state, with a vision to finance over three million rice farmers to boost production and improve the agriculture value chain.
This came as the Governors of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Mohammed Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa), and Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State described the Rice Pyramid Programme as a good vision that would reduce import and make Nigeria fully independent in food production.
The CBN Governor, Dr. Godwin Emefiele, who spoke while unveiling the first rice pyramid in the South-west in Ado Ekiti on Tuesday, said the Anchor Borrowers Programme has expanded agriculture production for 21 crops across the states of Nigeria.
Emefiele said over three million farmers were being financed in the production of varieties of products that can improve the economy, provide jobs and increase Nigeria's imports for foreign exchange earnings.
The CBN governor said he understood that there was prohibition of land clearing in the South-west, adding that some governors have accessed the sum of N1.5 billion each to undertake such policy in their states.
"Agriculture is profitable today in Nigeria and we will strive to make it profitable for all. We will try to make farm mechanisation readily available to our farmers. We are not only doing rice, we are supporting cocoa, palm tree. Provision of rural access roads is also part of our target.
"The people of the South-west must make use of the coming wet season for bountiful harvest," he said.
Emefiele said farmers will be granted loan to acquire solar system plant to help production and processing of their products.
According to the CBN governor, "The CBN is ready to make agriculture attractive to the youths and we will facilitate the programme that can ease access to credit facilities, so that their enthusiasm for farming can be realised.
"Our future is bright as a country, but we must take those good concept that can make us attain self sufficiency in food production, but attaining this will not come easy or cheaply. Let us continue to enter into partnership for us to achieve this."
Emefiele debunked the widespread impression that some of the agriculture boosting programmes of President Muhammadu Buhari were concentrated in a section of the country.
The CBN governor clarified that out of N700 billion earmarked for the Anchor Borrowers Programme, more than N300 billion has been disbursed in the southern part of the country for the expansion of food production.
Also endorsing the rice production programme, Governor Fayemi said President Buhari has demonstrated the capacity to tackle poverty and reduce dependence on foreign food by many of his initiatives in the agriculture sector
Fayemi added that rice clearing, production of seedling and farm
Implements at low interest will enhance rice value chain from primary producers to processors.
"It will also help in tackling poverty and insecurity, enhance economic diversification, foreign exchange earnings and forex policy and curtail cross border banditry.
"In the past, Ekiti is recognised as a rice producing state. We want to change the narrative and restore the lost glory by moving farming from mere subsistence to profitable business, that was why we are mobilising our farmers to benefit from the Rice Borrowers Programme.
"We want to increase rice production in Ekiti from 473,000 metric tonnes annually to 1.5 million metric tonnes. We are doing this in partnership with JMK, Dangote and Stallion Rice Mills, their plants are already in Ekiti.
"We are directly producing 12,000 jobs for our farmers, who will in turn provide jobs for another 50,000 persons between now and 2023," Fayemi said.
The Chairman, South-west Governors Forum and Ondo State Governor, Akeredolu, in his contributions, said Ekiti has always been known for rice production, adding that the programme will return the lost glory and redirect the state to the right path of economic greatness.
"Ekiti was known for rice before Lagos, Kebbi and Ogun. But now, they are ahead of us. But Ekiti is coming with full force. We have a lot of work to do.
"We must commend President Buhari on his strides for food production. When it comes to agricultural development, give it to President Buhari. The CBN's Anchor Borrowers' Programme is unrivalled.
"But our main problem down south is problem of land clearing. Please, treat us specially here because to clear the lands is not that easy. We will leave no stone unturned to develop agriculture in the South-west," he said.
The Governor of Kebbi State and Co-Chairman, National Council on Food Security, Bagudu, said the success of rice production was due to strong collaboration between the federal government, especially CBN and the governors.
Bagudu, who doubles as the Chairman, Progressives Governors Forum, added that the programme has been a guidance of President Buhari supported by CBN to finance the agribusiness and ensure food security in rice production.
"This is a testament to the clarion call by President Buhari that all the states and Abuja are capable of growing rice. What this revolution is about is that we should produce what we consume and still have surplus for revenue earnings.
"The government has been able to escape two economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 due to our success in agriculture. Nigeria is a great country and this is a testimony to this.
"We will continue to reward those who are hardworking because Nigeria is blessed with hardworking people who only need support, so that they can do better. The Bureau of Statistics just released some statistics that food inflation is going down. We are having more production and processing with improved food supply," he said.
Speaking about the importance of agriculture, the Governor of Jigawa State, Abubakar, stated that for Nigeria to progress, it must produce to substitute importation.
"The CBN has been investing heavily in the production of rice in recent years. This is the vision we need and it is driven by passion. President Buhari had given clear mandate to the CBN to make Nigeria truly independent in food production by reducing import of food production substantially. Today in Jigawa, the richest people in our villages are farmers. We have more than 40 integrated rice mills and the issue of quality of our rice is improving," Abubakar said.
The Governor of Osun State, Oyetola, said the programme will enhance food sufficiency, diversification programme of the government and good security status.
Oyetola appealed to Nigerians to patronise local foods to serve as morale booster to farmers to be able to produce more.