Having achieved a mileage in rice production, the Anchor Borrowers Programme, an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria, is shifting focus on tomato production. The adventure into tomato production is intended to increase job creation and ascertain food security in the country, even as capacity of small scale farmers is enhanced. Bamidele Famoofo reports
The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), arguably, has emerged to become the most successful of all government intervention programmes in recent times.
CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, launched the programme in 2015, being one of the intervention programmes for sustainable economic growth.
The apex bank had set aside a portion of the N220billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund to finance agricultural projects at a single-digit interest rate of nine per cent. Chiefly among the aims was to create economic linkages between over 600,000 smallholder farmers and reputable large-scale processors with a view to increasing agricultural output and significantly improving capacity utilisation of integrated mills.
As at 2019, according to the central bank, over 200,000 smallholder farmers from 29 states of the federation are already benefitting from the N43.92 billion released directly from it and 13 other participating financial institutions to fund the agricultural programme.
President Muhammadu Buhari agreed with the CBN that the initiative is working as planned. He said 2.5 million direct jobs had been created through implementation of the programme as at 2018. Buhari added that about one million more indirect jobs are believably created also. “A total number of 862,069 farmers cultivating about 835,239 hectares of land, cultivating 16 different commodities including rice, wheat, maize, cotton, soya-beans, poultry, cassava and groundnuts, tomato, in addition to fish farming had already benefited from the programme.”
On the scorecard of ABP, over seven million 50kg bags of fertilizer have been produced from 11 blending plants with a capacity of 2.1 million metric tonnes. “We have saved $150 million in foreign exchange and N60 billion in subsidy. Fertilizer prices have dropped from N13, 000 per 50kg bag to N5, 500,” Buhari had disclosed while pointing to some of the achievements of the ABP.
According to the federal government, the gap between the levels of local rice production and domestic consumption has been reduced within a space of three years.
Confident that rice production in Nigeria is getting to a sustainable level, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, said the country would begin to export its brand of rice within the next two years.
Nanono made the revelation during a working visit of the Nestle Nigeria Plc in Lagos, recently. His words: “If we maintain the momentum in the next two years, we may export rice to other countries. I was worried in terms of the production of rice, but what I have found out is that most rice producers have stocked rice for the next six months. This means that before the stock is finished, dry season rice will be harvested, and before that finishes, the rainy season will come back,” he said.
As at today, according to the minister, Nigeria can boasts of 11 rice milling plants with the capacity to produce between 180 tonnes to 350 tonnes of rice per day.
“In a few months, another mill with a capacity to produce 400 tonnes of rice per day is going to be opened, with another upcoming 34 smaller mills; then, we have clusters in different areas,” Nanono added.
And now, another revolution, similar to what was recorded in the production of rice has started in Nigeria as the CBN has made good its promise to support massive tomato production in commercial quantity in the country.
Already, tomato processing plants have started springing up in parts of the country that would soon make Nigeria self-sufficient in the commodity.
Very recently, Emefiele said the CBN has mobilised and validated 140,848 tomato farmers for ABP.
The governor made the disclosure at the ground-breaking ceremony of Tomato Jos at Kangimi community in Kaduna recently.
Tomato Jos is an American-owned company aimed at transforming smallholder farmers from subsistence growers into commercial producers.
The company has 500 hectares of land with potential to cultivate tomato of 400 hectares and it is expected to begin production in 2021.
Emefiele said the beneficial farmers were selected from various Tomato Farmers Associations across 25 states in the country.
He explained that the farmers would be linked to proximal processors, where applicable, or financed to produce fresh fruits for direct consumption, which constituted the largest use of tomato in the country.
“We are also partnering with other big players in the tomato value chain like Dangote Tomato Processing Limited, Sonia Foods, GB Foods, Vegefresh Company Limited and a host of others,” he said.
The main reason why central bank is focusing on tomato production, according to Emefiele, “is to ensure that Nigeria becomes self-sufficient in tomato and our processing companies, functioning at full capacity and employing millions of Nigerian youths.’’
The Dangote business group is not left out in the mission of making Nigeria self-sufficient in food production, especially tomato production.
Recently too, Dangote Tomatoes Processing Limited, owned by the younger brother of Africa’s richest man, Sani Dangote, unveiled a N2.8 billion greenhouse nursery in Kano to supply the best quality tomato seedlings to Nigerian farmers.
Speaking on the project, Sani Dangote said the nursery was designed to use the automated Pat Moose planting technology, the first of its kind in Nigeria and has the capacity to process 350 million tonnes of hybrid tomato seedlings per season enabling the planting of 12,000 hectares of tomato farm. The pat moose process takes three weeks before proceeding to the next stage reducing the whole process of growing tomatoes to just 3 months.
He noted that Nigeria consumes about 2.3 million tonnes of tomatoes annually and with the establishment of the nursery, “we have created capacity to triple tomato production, attaining self-sufficiency in tomato production as well as potentially exporting surplus to neighbouring countries.
According to Dangote, the nursery is designed to produce the highest quality tomato seedling available meaning that the farmers can grow the highest yield tomatoes. Currently, the yields produced by Nigerian farmers are less than the global standard. As a result, farmers will be able to earn more income from selling higher volumes of harvests each season.
“Nigeria is on a trajectory to becoming self-sufficient in rice, tomatoes and poultry production. This means that millions of jobs will be created for her citizens,” he explained.
Apart from Tomato Jos and Dangote tomato, another N2 billion tomato processing plant and farm are already in place in Kaduna State, courtesy the CBN’s agricultural support Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
The plant has the capacity to mill 30 tonnes of fresh tomatoes a day.
Director, Corporate Affairs department of GBfoods, Dr. Teddy Ngu, said the company owns about 100 hectares, while the farm area is about 30 hectares. About 16 hectares have been cultivated, while the plan is to plant the entire area. “We plant in phases so that we can harvest in phases,” he stated, explaining that the idea is to keep the factory running continuously. “In the long run, we are going to move to 3,000 hectares,” he added.
The ban on 44 items from accessing forex from official windows, and deliberate standardisation of agricultural products in Nigeria largely through the support of the Anchor Borrowers’ scheme has long started making significant impacts on both home and external fronts. For example, the fourth quarter (Q4 2018) report on Nigeria’s provisional Balance of Payments (BoP) estimates that was released a few days ago indicates a significant improvement as the country recorded a surplus of $2.80 million, compared to the huge deficit of $4.542 billion recorded the preceding quarter.
It had also recorded a surplus of $6.180 billion in the corresponding period of 2017, according to a “Brief on Balance of Payments Statistics for Fourth Quarter 2018,” released by the central bank. A balance of payments surplus meant that Nigeria exported more than it imported during the period under review. What that means is that Nigeria is up again to play its role in global trade.
The African continent imports $40 billion of food annually despite having 65 per cent of the world’s arable land. The public-private model on-going in Nigeria could be adopted by other African countries to also attain self-sufficiency in food production.