Rice farmers in Abia have expressed dismay over their inability to access fund under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) established by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN).
The farmers urged the Federal Government to intervene in the alleged failure of rice farmers to access the fund adding that it was hindering production.
Mr Emmanuel Oraekwute, the anchor of rice farmers of the programme in Abia made the call in an interview with newsmen in Umuahia on Friday.
Oraekwute, who is also a rice farmer, alleged that rice farmers in Abia were yet to access the fund one year after it was released by the apex bank.
Newsmen report that the scheme which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, was designed to create a linkage between anchor companies involved in the processing and small holder farmer (SHF) of the required key agricultural commodities.
The main thrust of the programme is to provide farm inputs in kind and cash to small holder farmers to boost production of the targeted commodities.
Oraekwute however, claimed that the CBN released the fund in June 2018 to the Nigeria Incentive Risk-based Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), its implementing partners but alleged that NIRSAL was yet to disburse it to the farmers.
Oraekwute regretted that the non availability of the fund had made it impossible for the 495 registered rice farmers under his firm, Orakus Rice Meal Limited to cultivate rice.
He said that his company was hired to supply agro-chemicals, land clearing, training of farmers and miscellaneous expenses but no money was paid to it.
According to him, the situation has forced his rice meal to shut down for more than one year, because nothing was happening.
He said: “The programme is designed in such a way that the money will not stay with NIRSAL for more than five days to farmers.
“Farmers want to plant rice in the field but right now the NIRSAL people are still holding that money.
“Each farmer is supposed to get between N230,000 and N260,000. These farmers were asked to open account. The money is locked up in their accounts while it is being deducted by NIRSAL.”
Oraekwute, claimed that he had written petitions to NIRSAL office in Abia and its headquarters in Abuja, but was yet to get a positive response.
Reacting to the allegation, Mr Isaac Anosike, the NIRSAL officer in Abia told newsmen that the agency’s head office was on top of the matter, adding that issues concerning finance were being handled by the head office.
He said there was a meeting recently in his office with three people who were sent from the headquarters on the remediation.
Anosike assured the farmers that they would soon access the fund but did not know when.