The president launched 13 pyramids of rice paddy.
The price of rice in the Nigerian market is expected to fall as the country launches 13 pyramids of rice paddy, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
The price of rice, a staple food in Nigeria, began upward trend when the Nigerian government closed the Seme border between Nigeria and Benin Republic in August 2019.
The government said the decision was to strengthen the agricultural sector and curb massive smuggling activities, especially of rice, on that corridor.
The rice pyramids made of 1 million rice paddy was achieved through the Central Bank of Nigeria's Anchor Borrowers' Programme (ABP), a programme launched in 2015 to boost agricultural production and reverse Nigeria's negative balance of payments on food.
At the launch of the pyramids Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari said the measure will aid efforts at reducing the price of rice in Nigeria.
"The significance of today's occasion can be better understood by looking at the various economic strides the administration has achieved through agriculture," he said.
"When we assumed the reins of leadership of this country in 2015, the administration identified the Anchor Borrowers' Programme as an essential policy instrument for achieving economic diversification through agriculture."
To achieve this, the Anchor Borrowers' Programme was designed to encourage investments in agriculture and empower smallholder farmers as drivers of transformation in the agricultural sector and as critical enablers of economic growth.
"I am indeed delighted that the Anchor Borrowers' Programme continues to receive commendations, since its introduction six years ago, as it has become one of the reference points in the administration's agricultural revolution effort," the president said.
According to him, the country can boast of producing over 7.5 million metric tons of rice annually, with over four million farmers benefiting from the programme.
The president also boasted of the success of the programme which was established to provide loans to farmers through Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and Microfinance Banks (MFBs), which the programme recognises as Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs).
"In fact, the Programme speaks loudly in its giant strides as it has increased access to finance by our rural farmers, who before now were virtually excluded from the financial system," he said.
"The Anchor Borrowers' Programme has so far supported over 4.8 million smallholder farmers across Nigeria for the production of 23 agricultural commodities including maize, rice, oil palm, cocoa, cotton, cassava, tomato and livestock.
"Today rice production in Nigeria has increased to over 7.5 Million Metric tons annually. Prior to the introduction of ABP, the average production in Nigeria between 1999 and 2015 was less than 4 metric tons annually.
"I am aware that the bags of paddy will be moving straight from here to rice milling plants across Nigeria, which leads to the release of processed rice to the markets by the rice millers. The measure will aid our efforts at reducing the price of rice in Nigeria."
He also said the country has been able to conserve foreign exchange and reduce the rate of unemployment through its agricultural revolution.
"Before this administration launched the ABP, there were only 15 standard Rice mills in Nigeria. As of today, we have over 50 Standard and integrated Rice mills creating jobs and reducing unemployment," he said.
"We expect additional significant output when two new mills are started in Lagos and Katsina. I am also aware that because of the large margins in this business, more people are showing interest in investing in our agribusiness.
"Fellow Nigerians, our gathering here today, is no doubt a testament to the fact that the Anchor Borrowers' Programme is working. Indeed, these sky-high pyramids for which we are gathered here to commission are part of our commitment at achieving national food security and economic diversification through home-grown policies targeted at securing food for all Nigerians.
"As a critical policy of the government, the Anchor Borrowers' Programme is expected to catalyse the agricultural productive base of the nation, which is a major part of our economic plan to uplift the economy, create jobs, reduce reliance on imported food and industrial raw materials, and conserve foreign exchange.
"The commissioning of these rice pyramids today, is an indication that our country is making steady and assured progress towards self-sufficiency in food production, and it is my desired hope and expectation that other agricultural commodity associations that are yet to participate under the Anchor Borrowers' Programme will emulate the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria in supporting our administration's drive for food self-sufficiency," he said.
He commended the Central Bank of Nigeria for its efforts at resuscitating the Nigerian Commodity Exchange, which provides the country's farmers with ready buyers of their produce.
In his remark, the Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Aminu Goronyo, appreciated President Buhari for initiating the agricultural revolution programme.
According to him, the programme has translated into wealth for farmers across the country.
Mr. Goronyo said the rice pyramids unveiled by the President were the largest in the world.
"Mr President, you can see your hand work. It is a statement you made during your campaign and it is fulfilled. You said you will pay more attention to agriculture and it has happened. It is not a surprise at all. You promised Nigerians that you will expand the scope of agriculture if elected and you have done that.
"What you see here today is a trickle of what we produced in the last wet season. Only 0.05 percent of what was cultivated is what is being displayed.
"You have come at the time Nigeria needs you to lead the country and God knows why he has given you the opportunity to lead us now and Nigerians will continue to appreciate your leadership.
"You have put this country on track. You have helped us attain food security which translates to national security, and the President that succeeds you should pay attention to that too," he said.
On his part, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria , Godwin Emefiele, expressed delight at the outcome of the programme.
"I am particularly delighted because these stacks of rice pyramids provide undisputable and unassailable evidence of significant progress under President Buhari's food security initiatives and administration. I personally salute your vision of making agriculture a cornerstone and one of the focal points of your administration," he said.
He also applauded the farmers for summoning courage to go to their farms despite security challenges in some parts of the country.
"The past few years have been quite challenging towards some of the farmers, as they have battled with insurgency, banditry, lockdown and other related setbacks.
"Indeed we lost some of our farmers to insurgency attacks nationwide while some could not access their farms for several months yet, they kept faith, they did not give up, they persevered, and they did not abandon our fight for food self-sufficiency.
"Today's event therefore, is the celebration of your doggedness and an appreciation of their commitment to food security in Nigeria," he said.