Tomi Somefun, chief executive officer, Unity Bank Plc, says the bank will continue to partner with the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) to reduce rice importation and create more jobs.
Somefun disclosed this on Tuesday at the unveiling of a mega rice pyramid in Abuja.
She emphasised the need to give farmers the maximum support to overcome total reliance on imported food.
“As the Preferred Financial Institution(PFI) for the ABP transactions, the Bank will continue to support the farmers and ensure that more smallholder farmers get the requisite financial support to boost rice production,” the statement reads.
“Statistics show that there has been a significant reduction in the country’s rice import bill, from a monstrous $1.05 billion prior to November 2015, to the current figure of $18.50 million, annually. The programme has also created an estimated 12.3 million direct and indirect jobs across the different value chains and food belts of the country.”
Somefun, while recounting the bank’s support to the accomplishment made by RIFAN, said smallholder farmers made tremendous efforts to improve the food value chain in numerous ways, especially in the aspect of rice production.
“Our strategic partnership with RIFAN started in 2018 when we financed about 273,000 smallholder farmers. This was the largest single-ticket transaction in that year. This financing cut across 33 states of the Federation including the FCT,” Somefun added.
“In 2019, the Bank increased the tally by financing another 146,810 smallholder farmers for the wet and dry season farming. This funding cut across 35 States of the Federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“Additional funding was granted to finance additional 221,450 smallholder farmers of the Association across the 32 states of the Federation including FCT for the wet season, and additional 300,000 hectares was financed in sixteen states for the 2020 dry season cropping season.
“As of March 2021, the Bank has financed no fewer than 190,000 smallholder rice farmers across 35 states including the FCT, Abuja.”