President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that prices of food items, especially rice will soon come down.
The president, who gave the assurance yesterday, during the official unveiling of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)/Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) Rice Paddy Pyramids in Abuja, urged Nigerians to exercise some patience, saying the growing food production in the country, especially expansion in rice farming would eventually bring down prices of food, making it more affordable for all.
This was just as the Governor of the CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, revealed that following the successes recorded in the implementation of the CBN-led Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), the country had been able to significantly reduce rice importation from Thailand by over 99.83 per cent within the past seven years.
But reacting to yesterday’s unveiling, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday mocked the APC and its governments, describing it as another shameless media stunt to again beguile Nigerians ahead of 2023 elections.
According to the leading opposition political party, the unveiling of bogus rice pyramids in Abuja, was nothing but, “pyramids of lies.”
However, Buhari’s assurance to Nigerians on cheaper food items came on a day he personally presented awards to Emefiele and five other state governors for their contributions to the development of agriculture in the country.
The state chief executives included Governors of Ekiti, Mr. Kayode Fayemi; Kebbi, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu; Cross River, Prof. Ben Ayade; Ebonyi, Mr. David Umahi, and Jigawa, Alhaji Abubakar Badaru.
The president said: “Today rice production in Nigeria has increased to over 7.5 million metric tons annually. Prior to the introduction of APB, the average production in Nigeria between 1999 to 2015 was less than four metric tons annually.
“I am aware that the bags of paddy will be moving straight from here to rice milling plants across Nigeria, which 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.
“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 president said the large margins in the business of rice had also encouraged more people to show interest in investing in agribusiness.
“Fellow Nigerians, 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 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.
“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.
“In the implementation of the programme, adoption of high-yielding seedlings, quality inputs and best farming practices were essential features.
“For instance, 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 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,’’ he added.
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: “It is my desired hope and expectation that other agricultural commodity associations that are yet to participate under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme will emulate the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria in supporting our administration’s drive for food self-sufficiency.’’
The president noted that, about three years ago, the first set of sky-high pyramids of rice harvests were 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.
President Buhari said in May 2021, the CBN unveiled the first rice pyramids in the South-west in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State.
“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.
Buhari commended the CBN over its efforts at resuscitating the Nigerian Commodity Exchange following approval to do so.
This, he said, had been done in the hope that farmers could have ready buyers of their produce, thereby resolving the current logistical challenge of moving their produce from farm to markets.
“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,’’ the President added.
Speaking further, Emefiele, at the unveiling of the mega rice pyramids, said rice importation from Thailand alone was valued at 1.3 million metric tons as at 2014, adding that by 2016, importation from same country had fallen to only 58,000 metric tons.
The CBN governor further disclosed that as of the end of 2021, Thailand only exported 2,160 metric tons to Nigeria, thereby saving the country foreign exchange and helping preserve local jobs.
He said the ABP was launched in 2015 to curtail excessive imports, adding that, “we have seen incremental reductions in rice imports from Thailand.”
Emefiele, pointed out that as at the end of December 2021, the CBN had financed 4.48 million farmers who cultivated 5.30 million hectares across 21 commodities through 23 Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs) in the 36 States of the Federation and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).