The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele has tasked Governors of the 36 States of Nigeria to make their States more viable by investing more in agriculture, particularly crops in which they have comparative advantage.
Mr. Emefiele dropped the challenge in Port-Harcourt, on Thursday, May 27, 2021, at the launch of the Rivers Cassava Processing Company Limited, which is designed to support improved production and processing of cassava into high quality flour in Rivers State.
He disclosed that the CBN would no longer support the continued importation of items that can be produced in Nigeria, even as he pledged that the Bank will collaborate with Rivers and other States in supporting the development of a viable agricultural and manufacturing sector across the country in line with the CBN mandate of promoting economic growth for the country.
According to him, principal agencies of government at the federal and state level should continue to work hand in hand towards diversifying the Nigerian economy and creating an enabling environment for further investment by firms such as the Rivers Cassava Processing Company.
Emefiele identified land development as a major constraint to increase in agricultural activities in the Southern parts of the country due to its topography, noting that the CBN had partnered with several States Governments in the region under the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS).
Continuing, he said about N7.436 billion had been accessed by four States in the South-South region to open up more land for cultivation, create access roads to agricultural lands, and provide infrastructure among other support services in the region. “These measures are helping to induce greater activity in the agricultural sector and are enabling the movement of goods from farm to factories, and to the markets,” he added.
While commending the Rivers State Government, working with Shell Petroleum Development Corporation, the Dutch Embassy Investment Nigeria Limited and their technical partners, in setting up the integrated facility, the CBN Governor said investments such as the cassava plant could help in driving economic growth, reducing unemployment and inducing other wealth creating activities in the state.
He also expressed optimism that the project would improve livelihoods, as well as enhance sustainability of farming operations for over 3000 farmers, by guaranteeing the offtake of their farm produce in addition to reducing the country’s reliance on imports of cassava by-products.
Emefiele further noted that the emergence of the Nigerian economy from the recession in the fourth quarter of 2020, and the recent report that the economy continued to experience growth in the first quarter of 2021, was due to significant growth in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
Given the multiplier effects of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, on growth, employment, and wealth creation, he challenged all stakeholders, particularly the State Governors to encourage more investment in the critical sectors of the economy.
“With the decline in our foreign exchange earnings, we can no longer afford to support continued importation of items that can be produced in Nigeria. Our current situation has also made it imperative for the Central Bank to work towards supporting programmes that will enable greater cultivation and processing of key agricultural commodities in Nigeria,” Emefiele declared.
While also noting that the developmental finance initiatives at the CBN had been focused on creating an enabling environment that will drive both public and private sectors participation in the real sector with strategic deliverables around price stability, job creation, financial inclusion, import substitution and accretion to foreign reserve among others, he disclosed that so far, the sum of N333.196 billion had been disbursed to various projects in the South-South region covering activities in different economic sectors.
In his remarks, the Rivers State Governore, Nyesom wike invited the farmers and other interested individuals to key into the development programmes of the State, particularly in agriculture as the state is ready to divest its 80% share holdings to ensure proper management of the facility.
Wike also appealed to the youth to channel their energy towards productive sectors of the economy rather than waiting for stipends from God knows where.
On his part, Minister of Agric , Muhammad sabo Nanono promised to supply free cassava seedlings to farmers in the area.