By Christiana Ekpa and Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Senate yesterday called on the government at all levels to embrace the Anchor Borrowers Programme initiated by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
It equally mandated its Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development to investigate the circumstances surrounding the delay in extending this laudable intervention programme to other states and the FCT.
Similarly, the upper legislative chamber directed the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Presidential Committee on Rice Production and other agencies concerned to sustain the momentum in states where the programme is already launched.
These were sequel to a motion, titled “The Anchor Borrowers Programme and its benefits to farmers”, sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sha’aba Lafiagi (APC Kwara North).
Senator Lafiagi said the senate was aware that “the CBN in line with its developmental function established the Anchor Borrowers Programme which is intended to create a linkage between anchor companies involved in processing of key agricultural commodities and small holders farmers;
He expressed worry about the unpredictable price of crude oil and its resultant effect on the revenue profile of the country, and therefore stressed the need to boost agricultural production and non-oil exports in order to diversify the economy from solely depending on oil revenue.
The lawmaker further concerned that “there is need to create economic linkage between small holder farmers and reputable large processors with a view to increasing agricultural output”.
Similarly, he said it was important to assist rural small holder farmers to grow from subsistence to commercial production in order to reduce agricultural commodity importation and conserve external reserve and also increase capital utilization of agricultural firms.
According to him, “the thrust of the programme is the provision of farm inputs in kind and cash (for farm labour) to small holder farmers to boost production of these selected commodities, stabilize inputs to agro-processors and create a new generation of farmers/entrepreneurs thereby assuring employment”.
Senator Lafiagi added that “loans granted to the smallholder farmers under this programme are to be repaid with harvested produce delivered to the anchor and must cover the loan principal and interest which must not be above 9% per annum”.
He noted that the CBN and the Presidential Committee on Rice Production launched the programme in some states like Kebbi, Jigawa, Ebonyi, Sokoto, Imo and Cross River has led to massive production and exportation of rice in 2017.
The former Kwara State governor also stated that “the programme has led to massive cultivation, self- substance in food production and job creation for the unemployed youth through farming in the selected states where the programme is being practiced”.
In his contribution, the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan maintained that agriculture remains the surest way to fight poverty and ensure peace and security in the country.
He therefore advised that the Anchor Borrowers Programme should be targeted at small holder farmers across the country, saying that “if this is done, there will be employment to better the lives of various families”.
Senator Lawan added that the programme should be left for farmers who have no access to loans and funds to embark on commercial farming so that its impact could be felt in the country.
Also contributing, Senator Barau Jibril (APC Kano North) said apart from food security, the problem of inadequate raw materials for industries in the country would become a thing of the past if the programme is extended to every state.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, in his remarks said agriculture could still become the mainstay of the nation’s economy if given top priority, advocating one local government one product programme to grow the economy.