Anchor Borrowers: Farmers owe CBN N463bn as defaults rise

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Farmers who subscribed to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme owed the apex bank N463bn as of the end of March 2021, data from the CBN Economic Report for April have shown.

The ABP was launched on November 17, 2015, by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to reverse the country’s negative balance of payments, especially in the area of food.

Beneficiaries of the programme include farmers cultivating cereals (rice, maize, wheat, etc.), cotton, roots and tubers, sugarcane, tree crops, legumes, tomato and livestock.

Loans are disbursed to the beneficiaries through deposit money banks, development finance institutions and microfinance banks, which the programme recognises as participating financial institutions.

The CBN report revealed that from the inception of the ABP in November 2015 to March 31 this year, the sum of N615.4bn had been disbursed to 3.04 million farmers.

The report, however, showed that only N152.3bn had been repaid by the beneficiaries while the outstanding loans stood at N463bn.

“ For the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, the sum of N615.4bn had been disbursed to 3,038,899 beneficiaries, out of which N152.3bn was repaid,” it said.

The PUNCH had in August reported that the CBN’s unpaid loan as of November 2020 stood at N378.5bn.

As of the period, the apex bank had disbursed a total of N497.2bn to finance 2.3 million projects under the programme, but received only N118.7bn in repayment.

According to the CBN’s guidelines for the ABP, the broad objective of the programme is to create economic linkage between smallholder farmers and reputable large-scale processors with a view to increasing agricultural output and significantly improving capacity utilisation of agricultural firms.

Economic experts, who reviewed loan repayments under the programme, linked rising default rate to rising insecurity in certain parts of the country, especially the food-producing states.

An economist and Chief Executive Officer of SD&D Capital Investment, Gbolade Idakolo, said while the initiative was commendable, its success, which could be measured by the repayment rate, was being hampered by the security problems in the country.

Another economist and the Managing Director, Cowry Asset Management Limited, Johnson Chukwu, also said the programme’s effectiveness was limited by the rising wave of insecurity in the country.

Four million farmers benefitting from N788bn Anchor Borrowers fund – Emefiele
Meanwhile, the CBN says it has disbursed a total of N788.035bn to four million farmers in the country through the ABP.

The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this in Jos, the Plateau State Capital on Tuesday, at an event to begin the Nigeria Brown Revolution programme aimed at boosting wheat production in the country.

Emefiele, who was represented by the CBN Deputy Governor, Corporate Services, Edward Adamu, said, “The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme has recorded successes in supporting smallholder farmers to increase the cultivation of different commodities across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

“Through the programme, N788.035bn has been disbursed to about 4.0 million farmers through 23 participating financial institutions. So far, 4.796 million hectares of farmlands have been cultivated under the programme covering 21 commodities.”

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According to the CBN, wheat is the third most widely consumed grain in Nigeria after maize and rice, with the country producing only about one per cent (63,000 metric tonnes) of the five to six million metric tonnes of the commodity consumed annually in Nigeria.

He said, “This enormous demand-supply gap is bridged with over $2bn spent annually on wheat importation. This has made wheat the second highest contributor to the country’s food import bill.

“Given the high growth rate of the country’s population and the demographic structure, the demand for wheat is projected to continue to rise. This can only intensify pressure on the country’s reserves unless we take a decisive step to grow wheat locally.”

Nigeria’ll stop wheat importation soon, says Buhari

Meanwhile, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday, said Nigeria would soon end the importation of wheat that is gobbling up $2bn annually.

Buhari said this while launching rain-fed commercial wheat cultivation in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State.

Represented by Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong, he said a key focus of his administration had been the deployment of mechanisms to ensure that agriculture thrived in the country.

According to him, Nigeria is on the path to actualising sustainability in the production of rice, maize, cassava, soybean, groundnut, oil palm and cocoa.

He said, “It is important to stress that Nigeria currently spends over $2bn on the importation of wheat annually, one of the key contributors to the nation’s huge foreign import bill. This is because millers have had to resort to importing wheat to meet the huge demand for wheat by-products.

“Wheat cultivation, similar to rice has the capacity to thrive in Nigeria due to the tropical climatic conditions. Currently, wheat is cultivated in many northern states, particularly in the dry season due to the high heat tolerance of the seed utilised by farmers.”

Buhari expressed excitement at the flag-off of the 2021/2022 dry season wheat farming, saying wheat could also be grown in the wet season in Plateau State and other plateaus in the country, namely, Gembu Plateau in Taraba State, and Obudu Plateau in Cross River State.

He urged the states to take advantage of the opportunity and key into the initiative.