UNITY Bank Plc has reiterated its commitment to Nigeria’s target of self-sufficiency in rice production, reassuring rice farmers of its readiness to providing necessary support.
Giving the assessment at the flag-off of the 2020 wet season harvest aggregation in Kebbi State recently, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Unity Bank Plc, Mrs Tomi Somefun said over 642,860 smallholder farmers across 35 states of the federation have received support from Unity Bank Plc under the CBN’s Anchor Borrower’s Programme, ABP to boost food production and attain self-sufficiency in rice production in Nigeria.
While delivering a goodwill message, Somefun went down memory lane stating that the berthing of the bank is closely linked to the critical role it played in agric financing, adding that “Unity Bank remains fully committed to its partnership with the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) and its programmes”.
“This commitment will ensure the attainment of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s target to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production through the association,” she added.
Unity Bank in 2019 earned an award of recognition, which was jointly presented by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) for its strong participation in the ABP in 2019.
She recalled that the bank’s participation in the CBN’s Anchor Borrower’s Programme, ABP dates back to 2017 after the official flag-off of the scheme in Kebbi State by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 17, 2015, noting that the first two-state-led-windows of the ABP was sponsored by the bank.
“We financed wheat production in Jigawa in 2017 with about 1,600 farmers and in the same year, financed rice production in Sokoto State with a total number of about 6,600 smallholder farmers,” she recalled.
She stated that in 2018, the bank entered into a strategic partnership with three major associations — Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN) and National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN) — and explained that the bank’s participation in 2017 provided the much-needed experience and the learning curves for the APB transactions.
According to Somefun, the bank’s strategic partnership with RIFAN in 2018 witnessed the financing of about 273,000 smallholder farmers to a tune of about N37 billion. This, she said, was the largest single-ticket transaction that year, as the financing cut across 33 states of the federation including the FCT.
She said, “In 2019, the Bank increased the tally by financing another 146,810 smallholder farmers to a tune of N42 billion for the wet and dry season farming. This funding cut across 35 States of the Federation including the FCT.”
Sumefun further added that despite the challenges that came with 2020 especially the coronavirus pandemic, the Bank through the apex bank’s intervention supported the farmers by increasing funding in the Agric sector and also re-priced the interest rate from 9 per cent to 5 per cent.
She said that so far, the CBN had funded the association to the tune of N49 billion to finance about 221,450 smallholder farmers across 32 states of the Federation including the FCT.
“Our message to the beneficiaries of this season’s Intervention Programme is that we urge them to take the inputs and utilize it judiciously for the farming purpose which is aimed at actualizing the Federal Government’s goal of attaining food sufficiency, diversification of the economy from oil, job creation for the teeming youth and poverty reduction. The income of the smallholder farmer will significantly improve if the inputs are widely used,” she said.