For the first time, Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Abubakar Bagudu, has revealed the strategies adopted by his administration to turn the state into the leading rice-producing centre in Nigeria, giving farmers real value for their labour and investments in the process.
Bagudu, who spoke in an exclusive interview with Vanguard, said his love for his people and the need to create a sustainable means of livelihood for them, motivated him to take what he calls ‘unusual steps’ to transform rice business farming in the state into a business venture. The governor disclosed that on assuming office and discovering the huge rice potentialities in his state, he immediately put down a princely sum of N4 billion as seed money to convince the Bank of Industry and the Central Bank of Nigeria of its readiness to partner with them in giving financial assistance and inputs to rice farmers in the state to go into commercial farming. He pointed out that with the capital outlay and the agreement it entered into the with the BOI, his administration also designed a template where each farmer agreed to produce at least six tons of rice per hectare of land after being given a minimum of N210,000 per hectare to cover farm inputs and seedlings.
The governor said that under the arrangement, no fewer than 78,000 farmers had been fully registered under the state’s rice programme with the Central Bank of Nigeria, known as Anchors Borrowers Programme, ABP. Bagudu, who expressed satisfaction with the results of the state’s collaboration with the CBN and the BOI in pushing the rice revolution agenda, disclosed that Kebbi State has been able to produce 1.4 million tons of rice this year as a result of the effort. The governor said: “We have had very successful dry and wet rice farming seasons and as a result, farmers in Kebbi State have recorded at least 1.4 million tons of rice this year. ‘’The next thing we need to do is to handle the distribution of the rice we have produced so that Nigerians can begin see the local rice, which is by far better than the imported paddy rice from outside.” “To be able to do that successfully, we are going into partnership with Lagos State, which is like a window to the world and we are going to mobilise all stakeholders, including market women, to be shareholders in the plant we are going to use in processing and distributing rice from Lagos.’’ Bagudu, who is also the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Rice and Wheat Production in Nigeria, expressed optimism that Nigeria might have attained self-sufficiency in rice production, considering the fact that all the rice millers in the country currently had enough stock to process and sell to the market. “My thinking is that we have achieved self-sufficiency in rice because as we speak, we have enough paddy rice for millers across the country. ‘’I can tell you that there is no miller in Nigeria today who does not have enough stock to process. This gives us the confidence that Nigeria may be self-sufficient in rice production,” the governor said. He said a total of sum of N27 billion disbursed to 219,837 small holder rice farmers nationwide, who have successfully cultivated at least 246,837 hectares of rice under the ABP.
Bagudu said that no fewer than 17 states in the country had so far keyed into the ABP rice programme cultivating at least two commodities with comparative advantage to the respective states.