Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele said yesterday that Nigeria spends the equivalent of N1trillion in foreign exchange annually to import rice and wheat.
Emefiele spoke in Jibia, Katsina State, at the launch of the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme and 2016/2017 Dry Season Farming.
“Nigeria’s import bill is exceptionally high; top four import commodities, which include rice and wheat, consume over N1 trillion in foreign exchange annually,” he said.
According to him, relying heavily on food importation fuels domestic inflation and depletes the country’s foreign reserves.
The governor, represented by the Director, Development Finance, Mr Olaitan Mudassir, said food importation had negative effects on local production industries and created unemployment.
“Indeed, dependency, especially on commodities that have advantage, is not acceptable and sustainable either fiscally, economically or politically.
“Increasing rice production is a necessity as rice importation proffers no future for any nation in the long term.
“Nigeria cannot afford to continually depend on imported rice,” he said.
He said the Federal Government banned food importation to boost farming and diversify the nation’s economy.
The governor said that the government had mapped out strategies to reduce its import bill on identified commodities by at least 10 per cent annually.
“I firmly believe that Nigeria will no longer be one of the world’s highest importer of rice.
“It will become an exporter of commodities in medium terms,” he said.
He added that no fewer than 219,837 farmers in 17 states are participating in the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) of the CBN
Emefiele said 246,837 hectares had so far been cultivated under the programme.
He said the programme was aimed at supporting farmers with agricultural inputs to enhance productivity, create job opportunities and diversify the country’s economy.
He said the CBN had linked more than 120,000 rice and wheat farmers with reputable millers.
According to him, the CBN had set aside some funds from the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Funds (MSMEDF) in furtherance of the Anchor Borrowers Programme.
Beneficiaries are to pay 9 per cent interest.
Emefiele said the CBN would also empower at least 600,000 farmers in the rice, oil palm, wheat, cotton and fish value chains in the next five years.
Bank of Agriculture (BOA) Managing Director Prof. Danbala Danju, said the bank had so far disbursed N22 billion as loan to farmers to boost productivity and ensure food security.
Danju, represented by Alhaji Muhammad Babangida, said the bank would continue to support farmers with loans to encourage all-year-round farming in the country.
He said all-year-round farming would create job opportunities and diversify the country’s economy.
The Anchor Borrowers Programme was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in Kebbi State in 2015, with a view to boosting rice and wheat production.