In a bid to boost food supply and provide more competitive source of incomes for Nigerians, the Chairman of Abakaliki Rice, Ebonyi region, Mr. Joseph Nnunu has charged the federal government to make agricultural infrastructure readily available and accessible to farmers. According to Nnunu, the major challenge facing the sector include unavailability of tractors, parboiling machines, drying machines, access roads, boreholes to mention just a few.
â€œWe are appealing to the federal government for their aid. This is one major reason that the cost of buying foreign rice is cheaper than ours. Government should encourage exporting our locally made product like the Abakaliki rice by providing them easy access to these infrastructures and place an outright ban on the importation of foreign rice in the countryâ€, he said.
While he applauded the efforts of the federal government in conjunction with United Nations to encourage more Nigerians to embark on farming in order to reduce high rate of scarcity of food, he stated that â€˜â€˜farmers are not meeting up with the high demand of our products by consumers due to lack of modern machines. This has led to a low turnout of agricultural output and accounts for the relatively high cost of local rice compared to foreign ones.â€
The World Bank, under its Growth and Employment (GEM), the World Bank had promised to provide financial support to Ainotrans Energy-the producers of Abakaliki rice to enable it engage the services of vendors that will aid in carrying out its marketing drive.
Managing Director of Ainotrans Energy, Mr. Innocent Mbey said that rice milling is capital intensive. â€˜â€˜We need aid from the Federal government in the provision of the necessary machines for the production of Abakaliki rice. Better machines in the production can equally enhance more standard quality. The level at which Abakaliki rice are being patronised is still at average percentage; this is due to the fact that the level of output by we farmers are not meeting up with the high demand of our products by consumers.
He also said that the federal government should deploy the media to sensitise citizens on the need to patronise locally made goods. â€˜â€˜They should also organise seminars to educate the citizens on the advantages of using our local products. It is only by placing more adverts in the media to enlighten Nigerians on the positive impact of patronising local contents that the country`s GDP and export base will improve. Abakaliki rice is seen as being expensive compare to foreign rice as a result of lack of machines in place thereby involving almost 80% of human power in the production of Abakaliki rice in which the cost of paying for this labour are expensive compare to when machines are used in the productionâ€™â€™, he noted.