President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja urged Nigerians to exercise some patience as the growing food production in the country, especially expansion in rice farming, will eventually bring down prices of food, making it more affordable for all.
The President, who spoke at the official commissioning ceremony of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)/Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) Rice Paddy Pyramids at the Abuja International Trade Fair Complex, said across Nigeria, more than 4.8 million smallholder farmers had been supported by Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, with increase in production of 23 agricultural commodities including maize, rice, oil palm, cocoa, cotton, cassava, tomato and livestock.
“Today rice production in Nigeria has increased to over 7.5 million metric tons annually. Prior to the introduction of Anchor Borrowers Programme (APB), the average production in Nigeria between 1999 to 2015 was less than 4 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 catalyze 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 tonnes 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 of Nigeria 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.”