The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday said the country no longer imports rice, adding that a ban had already been put in place while all avenues through which the commodity could be brought in had been blocked.
Speaking at the Kingdom of the Netherlands during the Business and Investment Forum 2023 with the theme, “The Land is Green: Exploring Business and Investment Opportunities in Nigeria,” the CBN governor said prior to the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2015, the country was the largest importer of rice in the world.However, he explained that the introduction of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) by the central bank helped to revolutionise local rice production, helping achieve self-sustenance.
Emefiele said the CBN, through the ABP was able to support the smallholder farmers (SHF) through credit extension as well as the provision of fertilisers to them.According to him, the CBN’s intervention helped to boost rice production from about 1.5 metric tons per hectare to about 8 metric tons per hectare through the provision of high-yield seeds to farmers.
The CBN governor, who was at the event to among other things assuage the concerns of prospective investors on the issues of foreign exchange and remittances, also spoke on the monetary and fiscal policies of the federal government.Emefiele said, “When the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came on board, we were importing rice. Nigeria was the largest rice-importing nation in the world.
“And just about four years after we started the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme in 2015, Nigeria today is producing rice to sustain itself.“We are not importing rice; we’ve placed a ban on rice importation. We blocked all avenues through which you could import rice into the country. “He said, “And we gave support through credit to our smallholder farmers. Yield for rice production increased from 1.5 metric tons per hectare between 6.5 to 8 metric tons per hectare because we made sure we gave high-yield seeds to farmers.
“We made sure we gave fertilisers to farmers during the era when people were importing sand and ashes as fertilisers into Nigeria.“We made sure we gave support to companies that can produce urea which is the base raw material you need to produce fertiliser.”The CBN’s successes in the ABP were recently corroborated by the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) which said the Nigerian rice industry had enjoyed considerable support from the current administration.
The Director-General of the association, Mr. Andy Ekwelem, at a media briefing said, “Before the current administration, Nigeria officially allowed imported rice into the country. As at the last quarter of 2014, official Rice import into Nigeria from Thailand was about 1.24 million tons of rice; by the end of 2015, these imports had dropped to about 644,131MT, and by the end of 2016, it dropped to 58,260MT. In 2017, the imports further dropped to 23,192MT but by 2022, it dropped to an all-time minimal of 438MT.”
He added, “Of course, the reason for the drops – which to us at RIPAN, is a very positive development – is nothing more than Mr. President’s hard stand approach against food importation. Recall that President Buhari is a strong advocate of ‘grow what you eat and eat what you can grow,’ and to ensure that he walked his talk, Mr. President through the Central Bank of Nigeria, launched various programmes that encouraged local production and processing of rice.
“Programme such as the ABP, the Paddy Aggregation Scheme, the Private Sector-Led Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme, the Real Sector Support Facility (RSSF), etc where deliberate strategies that encouraged indigenous and foreign business concerns to invest massively in the rice value chain.”Ekwelem said, “Today, Nigeria boosts over 100 large-scale integrated rice processing facilities scattered across the country. This is more than 700 per cent increase from the mere 13 numbers of large integrated mills operating in the country between 2010-2014.”