Management of Okomu oil Palm company has called for a review of the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN) sponsored Anchor Borrowers Programme ( ABP) policy to shore up the nation’s agriculture foreign earnings.
The oil palm company, which is headquartered in Okomu, near Benin, Ovia South West local government area of Edo, currently cultivates total area of 33, 113 hectares of oil palm and rubber.
Of these, the company cultivates 19, 061 hectares of oil palm trees and 7 335 hectares of rubber trees, spread across three LGAs of Ovia South West, Uhunmwode and Ovia North East respectively.
ABP is an initiative of the CBN for grow the agricultural sector, in line with the apex bank’s developmental mandate.
The loan is targeted at smallholder farmers engaged in the production of identified commodities across such as rice, maize, wheat and tree crops like oil palm cocoa and rubber among others.
The company’s Managing Director, Dr Graham Hefer, who made the call on Monday in Benin, commended the Federal Government’s ABP, but however, said tree crop farmers were yet to fully benefit from programme.
Hefer said only annual crop farmers had fully benefited from the programme as they were able to cultivate, harvest, sell and repay their loans within the specified one year period.
According to him, CBN has to review its policy on modalities of anchor borrower loans. “This is because it is easy for farmers engaged in annual crops to meet their targets.
“It is easy to plant rice, maize or any annual crop. If you take a loan as a farmer, plant a crop, harvest, sell and repay your loan within a year.
“But this doesn’t happen with tree crop because In the first three years of oil palm production, you are unable to break even as the tree doesn’t produce one fruit.
“You only begin to break even normally between five and seven years in oil palm production. And that is a long term.
“This is what we want the bank to understand so that it starts to grant long term loans under the programme.
” We have spoken to CBN but it seems it doesn’t understand how the tree crop production works.”
Hefer however, expressed delight in the involvement of NGOs “coming in to fill the gaps. Their involvement may provide an insight for CBN to take a lead from there.
” We are hoping that their involvement may generate more interest for the CBN since the NGOs seem to be successful at what they do. It’s certainly work in progress,” he said.
Hefer said that nonetheless, ” the company is ready to assist farmers or associations who get loans to be properly trained on how to plant, when to plant and other farming techniques that will improve and guarantee high yields.
” We can also pay the farmers a percentage of their harvest so that they can begin the process of repayment of their loans, and also earn an income which invariably also make both the CBN and the NGOs become happy as they recoup their monies.”