By Itohan Abara-Laserian
Lagos, Jan. 18, 2022 Unity Bank Plc has partnered Nigerian rice farmers under the aegis of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) to unveil a mega rice pyramid at the National Rice Festival.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Unity Bank, Mrs Tomi Somefun, at the festival on Tuesday in Abuja commended rice farmers for the collaboration in the implementation of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).
Somefun said that the bank would continue to support the farmers and ensure that more smallholder farmers get the requisite financial support to boost rice production.
She said: “Our strategic partnership with RIFAN started in 2018, when we financed about 273,000 smallholder farmers.
“This was the largest single-ticket transaction in that year. This financing cut across 33 states of the federation including the Federal Capiatl Teritory (FCT).
“In 2019, the bank increased the tally by financing another 146,810 smallholder farmers for the wet and dry season farming.
“Additional funding was granted to finance additional 221,450 smallholder farmers of the association across the 32 states of the federation including FCT for the wet season and additional 300,000 hectares was financed in 16 states for the 2020 dry season cropping season.
“As of March 2021, the bank has financed no fewer than 190,000 smallholder rice farmers across 35 states including the FCT,” she said.
Somefun said: “The rice pyramids we see here today is an example of the resilience of the farmers and should be replicated in all states with a focus on the crop they have a competitive advantage.
“As we gear the programme toward deepening its penetration to reach more farmers, we encourage all beneficiaries of the intervention programme to always utilise the inputs judiciously,” she said.
Somefun noted that such move will make them to key into Federal Government’s goal of attaining food sufficiency, diversification of the economy from oil, job creation for the teeming youth and poverty reduction.
“We remain optimistic that RIFAN under the able leadership of the National President, Aminu Goronyo, will continue to engage its members to drive higher performance under the ABP.
“Through the strategic initiative of the ABP, Nigeria has made incredible gains in rice production over the past six years raising production to significant levels,” she noted.
According to her, official reports show that from an average yield of 1.8 metric tonnes per hectare in the pre-ABP era, the initiative has increased the country’s average yield per hectare for rice paddy and maize to about five metric tonnes per hectare.
She added that the average capacity utilisation per annum of domestic integrated rice mills had jumped to 90 per cent, from the 30 per cent that was the case in the era preceding the advent of the ABP.
Somefun said that the programme had created an estimated 12.3 million direct and indirect jobs across the different value chains and food belts of the country.
Statistics show that there has been a significant reduction in the country’s rice import bill, from a monstrous 1.05 billion dollars prior to November 2015, to the current figure of 18.50 million dollars annually.
By Itohan Abara-Laserian