By Ononye VC
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja unveiled Africa’s biggest rice pyramids as part of the event marking the Rice Festival and the launch of the 2021/2022 dry season production.

The 13 pyramids are said to be the biggest in the continent with each of the pyramids containing about 115,000 bags, of 100kg each.

While commissioning the pyramids, President Buhari said, “the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme has so far supported over 4.8 million smallholder farmers across Nigeria for the production of 23 agricultural commodities including maize, rice, oil palm, cocoa, cotton, cassava, tomato and livestock.

“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.

According to him, before his administration launched the ABP, “there were only 15 standard rice mills in Nigeria. As of 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. I am also aware that because of the large margins in this business, more people are showing interest in investing in our agribusiness.” He noted.

President of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Aminu Goronyo in his welcome address said the rice paddy pyramids in Abuja constituted only 0.05 per cent of what was produced under the 2020/2021 dry season adding that over 99 per cent was ready for processing in various states.

Speaking at the unveiling, the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, disclosed that the Apex bank had invested N1 trillion to empower at least 4,489,786, rural farmers, through intervention financing leveraging its flagship programme, the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.

He said: “The programme has developed an ecosystem among all nodes of the agricultural value chain and these linkages can be better optimized through synergy among all stakeholders.

“As at the end of December 2021, we have financed 4,489,786 farmers that cultivated 5,300,411 hectares across 21 commodities through 23 Participating Financial Institutions in the 36 states of the federation and FCT.”

Emefiele noted that the launched mega pyramids represent aggregated paddy rice submitted as repayment of loans by RIFAN farmers under the 2020 dry season and 2021 wet seasons, adding that the event also symbolized the efforts made by farmers to commit to loan repayment through produce submission and ultimately ensure the sustainability of the Programme.

“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” the CBN governor stated.

He said: “The ABP was launched in 2015 to curtail these imports, and since then, we have seen incremental reductions in rice imports from Thailand. By 2016, rice imports from Thailand had fallen to only 58,000 metric tons.

“As of the end of 2021, they only exported 2,160 metric tons to Nigeria, thereby saving us foreign exchange and helping preserve jobs in Nigeria.”

Emefiele also explained that productivity per hectare has significantly improved from about 2.4 metric tons per ha in 2015 to between about 5 metric tons per ha in 2021.”

Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi who adorned the various efforts of the President to promote food security said the success of the ABP demonstrated that the country can look inwards to feed itself adding that those who doubt the president’s call for “producing what we eat and eat what we produce” would now …

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