FAVOUR SHUAIB, Abuja.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said that over N1 trillion is frittered away in foreign exchange annually through food importation to fuels domestic inflation.
This it revealed while justifying the rationale behind its nationwide on going Anchor Borrowers Programme on agriculture, saying the initiative came as a lifeline for a country that was already dwindling through importation of commodities that could be produced locally.
Also , the Apex Bank reiterated its avowed commitment to supporting agricultural development in the country when the Federal capital Territory (FCT) flagged -off the programme at Kuje Area Council of the territory.
CBN, through its Deputy Director on Anchor Borrowers Programme,(ABP) Hajia Amina Umar, said at the event that CBN has utmost faith in the programme because it has complemented other agricultural initiatives of the Bank, which has raised the status of the small-holder farmers to a big time commercial merchants.
” The Anchor Borrowers Programme has also complemented other agricultural programmes of the Bank and raised the status of the subsistence small-holder farmers to commercial contract growers with attendant increase in agricultural productivity and farm income” she said.
Umar insisted that CBN had to take the interventionist steps, because ” Nigeria’s import bill is exceptionally high”. She added that, the country’s economy was crippled by the excess food importation, which included commodities that could be conveniently produced locally.
” The top four import commodities which include rice, wheat, fish and sugar consumed over N1.0 trillion in foreign exchange annually. Furthermore, relying heavily on food importation fuels domestic inflation, depletes our foreign reserves, displaces local production and creates unemployment.
” Indeed, import dependency especially on commodities for which our country has comparative advantage to produce is not acceptable and sustainable either economically or politically” she added.
She went ahead to relish the success said to have accrued from the implementation of the programme, which according to her has continued to create economic linkages between farmers and processors.
” So far this programme has linked over 190,841 small-holder farmers with reputable millers for off-take of every grain and livestock produced. This was undertaken in 28 states. To date, about 225, 600 hectares of farmland has been cultivated” she added.
Earlier in his speech, FCT Minister, Malam Mohammad Bello, stated that the programme would be used by his administration to harness the vast agricultural potentials of farmers in the nation’s capital.
He pledged that his administration will ensure that small holder farmers participating in the initiative would be provided with farm inputs to boost production of selected agriculture commodities.
” For us in the FCT, the Anchor Borrowers Programme is a major way of harnessing the vast agricultural potentials of the territory. Secondly, it is a sure way of strengthening the production of crops where we have comparative advantages over others. Some of these crops include; rice, soya beans, sorghum and others” Bello said.
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