CBN investments in agric outweigh results so far – AFAN President

The Anchor Borrowers’ Program of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has been a combination of successes and failures; keeping agriculture at the top of public discourse and to some extent economic agenda, and reaching out to farmers even though in very small percentages, at least according to Kabir Ibrahim, national president, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN).

Ibrahim, in a panel discussion during this year’s virtual edition of the BusinessDay agribusiness and food security summit, described the ABP as a failure to the extent it is hardly reaching “the real farmers on the whole”.

“We find the ABP trying to reach about 1 million farmers and majority of them are really just briefcase farmers,” he said, whereas the AFAN president said there are about 14.5 million farmers in the country.

Recalling when the program was launched in 2015, he explained there was a N2.6 billion fund for both wheat and rice, but over the years wheat has more or less taken the back seat. Since then, different sums of money are announced for interventions across different commodities apart from rice. However, as he explained, a cursory look at the current situation in the country shows “the investment far outweighs what we are getting from it and fewer farmers are being reached.” For him, the obstacles to achieving more success under the ABP can be outlined thus;

1. The right kind of farmers are not engaged, with those described as ‘brief case’ farmers getting more of the intervention funds and support.

2. The right quality of inputs (such as seeds) are not given to farmers. If good seeds are not provided there will be no good output.

3. There is a lack of data on farmers who produce specific crops, and therefore the way the CBN carries on the ABP is limited by that. There is a need to know the number of farmers engaged in a certain competence to be able to get them to upscale production to impact the food system. Unless the statistics are available, it is going to be next to impossible to really impact the system.

He also stated the need to create better synergy between the ministry of agriculture, the CBN, and farmers, in ensuring there is less disconnect in policy formulation, deployment, implementation and eventual impact.

Regardless, he said, not all being done by the CBN is wasted, as more than ever, its interventions have kept farmers on their toes to be able to contribute towards the country’s development.

“We must also commend the CBN for at least trying and should do more going forward,” he said. While there are complaints of soaring commodity prices despite the interventions for farmers, he says this is because there is a lot more work required in reaching out to more farmers and up scaling agricultural productivity in different commodities across the country.

He also expressed the view that the ministry of agriculture has not done enough to provide direction for the sector, worsened this year by the COVID-19 outbreak and other risk factors to food sufficiency in the country.

“The ministry should work with the CBN to churn out policies and statements that are correct,” he said.

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