•Apex bank boosts rice production with Brazilian variety
James Emejo in Abuja
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has facilitated N122.63 billion as loans to farmers under its
Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (ACGSF), since inception till December 2020, the Chairman of ACGSF Board, Mr. Stephen Okon, has said.
Okon told journalists yesterday in Abuja at the National Awards Ceremony for the Best Farmer of the Year 2020 under the ACGSF, that 30,267 of these loans, worth N4.32 billion, were guaranteed last year.
Also, CBN Director, Development Finance Department, Mr. Yusuf Yila, stated that the apex bank is working to provide farmers with some Brazilian seed variety to boost rice production from the current four million metric tonnes per hectare to about nine million metric tonnes per hectare.
Okon said the ACGSF was established by Decree No. 20 of 1977 to guarantee agricultural credit facilities to farmers, adding that the establishment law was amended and assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 to strengthen its mandate.
Okon, however, added that the amendment to the ACGSF Act resulted in an increase of the share capital of the fund from N3 billion to N50 billion to enable it cope with the fast-changing economic environment.
According to him, the new regulation ensured that the maximum amount for loans without collateral rose from N20,000 to N100,000 while the maximum for loans with collateral was increased from N10 million to N50 million.
It also installed a complete agricultural value chain financing, including the financing of production of farm machinery, implements and equipment for production, processing, storage and transportation and any purpose connected with the activities within the agricultural value chain.
On his part, Yila, at the occasion, said the apex bank was exploring ways to stabilise prices of food commodities across the value chain, particularly those of rice and maize.
He said the CBN would soon facilitate the release of an additional 50,000 metric tonnes of maize, after it released same quantity a fortnight ago.
He stated that the bank was adopting a strategic maize programme to reduce the price of the commodity.
He said: “We realised that maize prices are continuously increasing and what we have done at the CBN is to guarantee all the output from both the associations and the anchors and we put it in the strategic programme and we will release that to the millers.
“Two weeks ago, we released 50,000 metric tonnes and in the coming weeks, we are also going to release another 50,000 metric tonnes. And you can see that translating to the pricing.”
According to him, pricing for maize dropped from N200,000 per metric ton to N180,000 per metric ton following the strategic intervention by the bank.
He warned that those hoarding the commodity in order to unduly influence price will soon regret their action.
“So, for all those who are hoarding; middlemen who are keeping maize because they want to take advantage of the arbitrage, this is a warning to them.
“That they are going to lose a lot of money. The best thing for them now is to just quickly bring out that maize to the market so that our millers and those who consume that as staple food can quickly consume them.
“We are also going into a dry season programme. We are doing both a large scale programme for rice and maize. You are going to see much output and that too will guarantee and stabilise prices,” he added.
Yila, who is also a member of the ACGSF board, said the award was necessary to encourage farmers to give their best and be responsive to their financial obligations as well adopt best practices in farming.
“Not only because of the plaques and cash rewards that we are giving to them, but for good extension practices,” he said.
He added that the idea is to also encourage farmers to repay their loans so that others can benefit.
Nemat Agro Services Limited, located in Enugu State, emerged the winner of the Best Farmer of the Year 2020.
Akang Farms and Ventures Limited in Akwa Ibom emerged first runner up while Summit Agro Services Limited in Abuja claimed the third position.
The award, introduced in the 1980s, seeks to encourage and promote excellence and healthy competition among farming enterprises, among other things.