The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said it is determined to make Nigeria one of the largest rice producer and exporter in the world, making her less dependent on petroleum money.
Speaking with newsmen in Umuahia, the apex bank’s Acting Director, Corporate Communication, Issac Okoroafor, underlined the preparedness of the CBN to make the dream come true, saying the country’s apex bank is determined to make Nigeria join other countries in the production and exportation of rice, so that there will be food security and more jobs for the teeming youths.
He said, “This year, we are expecting that we will be self- sufficient in rice production, Nigeria will become a net exporter of rice because we have seen that most families now eat made-in-Nigeria rice.
“We now eat rice grown fresh in Nigeria, not the rice we used to import from India, Vietnam, and Thailand, rice that was between seven to nine years old. Now we are eating farm fresh rice, grown, milled and packaged in Nigeria. You see, we are very proud of Nigerians because they responded to this”.
Okoroafor said the Anchor Borrowers programme has been one of the most successful programs in this country, adding that it goes to show that, “when our people think well and we invest well, we can achieve a revolution, which is what Anchor Borrowers programme has achieved. We are continuing with it, we are expanding it.”
He said the regulator is getting into the next stage of the Anchor Borrowers Program, which is working with commodity associations, (no longer states), pointing out however that the apex bank is still continuing with the state governments.
“We are opening up a window for commodity associations. We have started with the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), we expect to reach 12 million farmers in this program and you can imagine what 12 million farming with at least one hectare of land can produce. You can imagine what that will bring to our economy”.
Okorafor said the accelerated agricultural development scheme will involve 10 thousand youths at the pilot level, saying the choice of the youths, will be those that will take pride in agriculture, who also at the end of the day, will be well funded to make agriculture big business.
He said, “We are starting with 360 to 370 youths, including Abuja and we look forward to a few years when we will come up and say, yes, we have made 360 billionaires in agriculture, young people between the ages of 16 and 35, that is our target.
“They would come up to make this nation proud. So we are collaborating with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on this programme. The details are going to be rolled out very soon. There has been a stakeholders meeting in Abuja and that is our focus for this year,” he stated.
Okoroafor said the CBN has spent about N87.5 billion on the Micro, Small and Medium Entreprise Development Fund, which was designed for small business operators, like artisans, vulcanizers, hair dressers and tailors, among others.
He appealed to youths in Abia and the other Southeast states to key-into the programmes of the CBN, by forming strong cooperatives to enable them access the available funds without cut-throat collaterals.