Foreign Reserves Rally to $42.8bn

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  • As CBN, rice farmers move to add 2mt to national output
  • Banks disburse N55bn under Anchor Borrowers’ Programme

Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja

Nigeria’s external reserves rallied to a new high of $42.8 billion on Tuesday with confidence returning to the economy as the continuing intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) draws various exchange rates to convergence point.

The figure is $2.4billion more than the $40.4billion for last month.

The acting Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, declared Wednesday that the Bank’s intervention in various sectors of the economy, including agribusiness, with emphasis on local production of rice has helped to conserve foreign exchange.

Speaking in Abuja at a press briefing by the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) vis-à-vis their collaboration with the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), Okorafor stated that as at Tuesday, foreign reserves hit a new high of $42.8 billion just as the bank has so far disbursed about N55 billion to farmers nationwide under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.

He disclosed that the central bank was targeting an additional two million tonnes of rice to the national output this year through its partnership with RIFAN under the ABP.

He noted that some people were of the argument that the price of rice was high, explaining that with time, the price will fall as production increases nationwide.

Okorafor pointed out that besides RIFAN, the CBN’s ABP was in league with other commodity associations in the country, including cassava, sorghum, maize and others with a view to revolutionising agribusiness, and guaranteeing food security.

In his remarks, the President of RIFAN, Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, lauded President Muhammadu Buhari’s support and launch of the ABP in 2015, describing it as a huge success.
Goronyo disclosed that about five million farmers are to cultivate 200,000 hectares of land for rice production under a pilot scheme.

He said: “For two years, the ABP worked successfully as CBN/State governments’ programme. Now, it has graduated from government-government collaboration to government-private sector collaboration. We launched the pilot scheme in Gwagwalada, Abuja on Tuesday. Other states have launched today (Wednesday).It is tagged the RIFAN-CBN model.

“This collaboration is to put Nigeria on the right track in agribusiness. Before 2015, it was operating on an analogue model, thus making monitoring and compliance very challenging. So, all that was done in agriculture was not recorded in details.

“But with this, we’ve 500,000 farmers under this season’s farming. From this figure, we have 200,000 farmers for the dry season.

“With this new digitalized programme, I can, from my phone, reach all the farmers. It’s a global innovation. Farmers are now accessible, verifiable and the entire process reliable. Anyone coming to do business with us can access us and work with reliable data.”
Goronyo added that RIFAN has national working committees, six zonal offices and heads at both local government and ward levels.

He also disclosed that 32 states are currently on board the ABP, revealing that Benue, Nasarawa, Enugu and Cross River States could not join this year’s farming season as they could not tidy up their application and documentation processes before the deadline, adding that such states would be part of the next phase.

Also speaking at the event, the Special Adviser on Agriculture and Development Finance to the CBN Governor, Mr. Tunde Akande, noted that to kickstart the 2018 farming season, the partnership with RIFAN was key, adding that the bank had digitalise loan process for smallholder farmers.

The collaboration with RIFAN, he stated, has also helped in monitoring farmers closely and ensuring they get input, extension services and other incentives needed to achieve bumper harvests.

Akande said: “The ABP started in November 2015. Under two years, we decided to upscale it. We have decided to collaborate with RIFAN but we will also partner with maize, cassava, sorghum, etc., using commodities associations.

“They have structures at all levels. We want to provide mentoring, extension services, etc. to farmers through them. We can now provide tractorisation and all that.

“It’s about the loan being well utilized. There is a guaranteed market for farmers under this programme. We have deployed seamless technologies to them. We have taken their biometrics and we have their contacts.

” Days of taking loans and inputs without accounting for them are over. In no distant time, we will attain food sufficiency and even export to earn foreign exchange.”

He also disclosed that under the ABP, all loans given to farmers are compulsorily insured by the Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC), adding that each farmer gets N250,000 to cultivate one hectare of land for the dry season farming.