Prices of Food, Especially Rice, Will Eventually Fall—Buhari Assures Nigerians
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Nigerians have been urged to exercise some patience as the growing food production in the country, especially expansion in rice farming, will eventually bring down prices of food, making it more affordable for all.
This appeal was made by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday at the commissioning of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)/Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) Rice Paddy Pyramids at the Abuja International Trade Fair Complex.
Mr Buhari said the economic diversification policy of his administration, especially through agriculture, was yielding meaningful results as reflected in the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) of the apex bank launched by him in 2015.
“As a critical policy of the government, the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme is expected to catalyse the agricultural productive base of the nation, which is a major part of our economic plan to uplift the economy, create jobs, reduce reliance on imported food and industrial raw materials, and conserve foreign exchange,” he said.
The President further said “our gathering here today is no doubt a testament to the fact that the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme is working.
“Indeed, these sky-high pyramids which we are gathered here to the commission are part of our commitment at achieving national food security and economic diversification through home-grown policies targeted at securing food for all Nigerians.”
According to him, across Nigeria, more than 4.8 million smallholder farmers have been supported by the scheme, with an increase in production of 23 agricultural commodities including maize, rice, oil palm, cocoa, cotton, cassava, tomato and livestock.
“Today, rice production in Nigeria has increased to over 7.5 million metric tons annually. Prior to the introduction of ABP, the average production in Nigeria between 1999 and 2015 was less than 4 metric tons annually.
“I am aware that the bags of paddy will be moving straight from here to rice milling plants across Nigeria, which will lead to the release of processed rice to the markets by the rice millers. The measure will aid our efforts at reducing the price of rice in Nigeria,” he stated.
Mr Buhari boasted that, “Before this administration launched the ABP, there were only 15 standard Rice mills in Nigeria. As at today, we have over 50 Standard and integrated Rice mills creating jobs and reducing unemployment. We expect additional significant output when two new mills are started in Lagos and Katsina.”
He said the large margins in the business of rice had also encouraged more people to show interest in investing in agribusiness, noting that “the improved rice seedlings have helped to ensure our achievement of rice sufficiency, as they are disease-resistant and have an average yield of about 5 metric tonnes per hectare, compared with the traditional national average of 1.5 metric tonnes.
“This has resulted in bridging our rice consumption gap, a significant reduction in rice imports, and saved us foreign exchange.”
President Buhari said the commissioning of the rice pyramids was an indication that the country was making steady and assured progress towards self-sufficiency in food production, adding that, “It is my desired hope and expectation that other agricultural commodity associations that are yet to participate under the ABP will emulate the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria in supporting our administration’s drive for food self-sufficiency.”
He noted that about three years ago, the first set of sky-high pyramids of rice harvests was showcased in Argungu, Kebbi State, which was followed by another set in Minna, Niger State about a year ago and barely three months later in Zauro, Kebbi State, rice pyramids were, again, unveiled.
“Those events were historic as, first, they remind us of our yester-year’s agricultural commodity pyramids, such as the groundnut pyramids in Kano and secondly, they symbolize that we can produce what we eat.
“The significance of today’s occasion can be better understood by looking at the various economic strides the administration has achieved through agriculture.
“When we assumed the reins of leadership of this country in 2015, the administration identified the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme as an essential policy instrument for achieving economic diversification through agriculture.
“To achieve this, the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme was designed to encourage investments in agriculture and empower smallholder farmers as drivers of transformation in the agricultural sector and as critical enablers of economic growth.
“I am indeed delighted that the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme continues to receive commendations, since its introduction six years ago, as it has become one of the reference points in the administration’s agricultural revolution effort.
“In fact, the Programme speaks loudly in its giant strides as it has increased access to finance by our rural farmers, who before now were virtually excluded from the financial system,” he said.
Mr Buhari commended the CBN and the Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele for efforts at resuscitating the Nigerian Commodity Exchange following approval to do so.
“Let me also commend the Governor and staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as well as the leadership of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria for the successful delivery of these pyramids, which hopefully is just the first of many that will be unveiled this year across Nigeria,” he said.