By Crusoe Osagie
The Federal Government disclosed weekend that $150 billion (N23.4 trillion) will be spent to meet Nigeria’s annual rice demand by 2050 as the nation’s population and appetite for imported rice continues to rise.
It also revealed that Nigeria currently imports five million metric tonnes of rice and that the figure will increase to an estimated 36 million metric tonnes by 2050.
These revelations were made by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) workshop on Financing Nigeria’s Agricultural Revolution.
According to the minister, “Nigeria is now the largest importer of rice in the world. As our population rises, demand for rice is projected to rise from the current level of five million MT to 36 million MT by 2050. Unless Nigeria begins an aggressive import substitution programme for rice, it will spend $150 billion annually importing rice by 2050 and the nation will be broke,” he said.
He disclosed that the Federal Government’s policy for now is to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production by 2015.
“To encourage the production and milling of local rice, the Federal Government has raised tariffs on imported brown rice and finished rice. The policy is working. In the last 12 months, 13 new rice mills, with a total capacity of 240,000 MT, have been set up by the private sector,” he said.
He further disclosed that Miva and Ashi rice in Benue, Ebony rice in Ebonyi State, Umza rice in Kano, have all hit the market, stressing that they are so popular and better than imported rice in terms of quality and price.
He also said that a new investor, Dominion Farm is currently investing $40 million in commercial rice production in Taraba State and that this rice farm will use small holder contract farmers and out-growers to produce close to 300,000 metric tons of rice within 24 months which will create close to 15,000 jobs and replace 15 per cent of rice being imported.
He explained that to ensure Nigeria has in place industrial capacity for international quality grade milled rice that can compete with imports; the Federal Government is facilitating the acquisition of 100 large scale integrated rice mills, with a total capacity of 2.1 million MT.
“They will be owned and operated by the private sector. This is being acquired under a low interest rate facility from the China EXIM Bank. For the first time in our history as a nation, Nigeria will soon have the full industrial capacity to mill internationally competitive quality rice,” he said.
Adesina explained that as Nigeria population rises, the government is focused on developing and transforming agricultural value chains that will provide new income opportunities for farmers, for all of our major crops, stressing that in this way farmers will have expanded and assured markets for their products.
“We are also encouraging agro-processing to add greater value to all of our agricultural commodities,” he added.
In her remarks, the Director General of SEC, Arunma Oteh, noted that agriculture permeates our society because it makes up about 40 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP and provides employment opportunities for 70 per cent of the country’s population.
She then wondered why Nigeria is the third largest importer of wheat in the world and the length of time it has taken the country to get to where it is today given the important nature of agriculture to the Nigerian economy.
She however expressed confidence that the agricultural revolution that is being masterminded by President Goodluck Jonathan and coordinated by the Minister of Agriculture whom she described as an agricultural transformation evangelist would set an example for the world to emulate.