Strong Value Chain to Boost Rice Production

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As Nigeria continues to bask in the euphoria of local rice production through its Agro-borrower’s programme initiated by the Federal Government to aid farmers’ rice production in the country, thus, becoming self-sufficient in the product before the next two years, stakeholders have raised the need for strong effectively connected value chain to achieve the result. Kasim Sumaina writes

Rice has become one of Nigeria’s most-consumed staples, and the country has made boosting rice production a priority.

But, lack of standard seeds and milling facilities infrastructure along the value chain leads to consumers’ preference for imported rice even as it has been reported that, there’s the need to tackle problems arising from poor vertical integration in the domestic rice value chain in the country.

Food Report
Recently, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in its reports disclosed that, nearly 90 per cent of the projected global population increase is concentrated in Africa and Asia, with Nigeria, China, and India alone expected to add 900 million urban residents by 2050. The report also finds that cities provide an opportunity to boost farmer’s incomes, if they are effectively connected through strong value chains.

The international conference held recently in Abuja to present key findings from the 2017 Global Food Policy Report, the latest in an annual analysis of developments in food policy around the developing world, showed that, with rapid urbanisation dramatically shifting demographics across the developing world in recent years, this year’s report focuses on how urbanisation is changing food systems, health, and development.

The report also showed that, cities provide opportunities for rural smallholders to raise their incomes by connecting to larger urban markets and typically more wealthy urban consumers. It said, “For urban consumers, small farmers can provide an important source of diverse and nutritious foods. But, the links between these areas in the developing world are often weak or broken, hindering growth and development.

Forecasts & Prospects
Director General, IFPRI, Shenggen Fan, while presenting the 2017 Global Food Policy Report in Abuja, disclosed that, “current forecasts of global economic growth for 2017 are slightly positive: after low growth of 2.3 per cent in 2016, growth in 2017 is expected to rise to 2.7 per cent.”

He noted that the prospects of growth differ sharply across countries and regions, with emerging economies in Asia showing robust growth, while Africa, South of the Sahara experiences a slowdown. The projected slowdown, Fan stressed, threatens to reverse the gains achieved in reducing poverty and food insecurity in Africa.

In Nigeria, he said, “lower oil prices combined with the effects of currency depreciation and conflict elevate the risk of severe food insecurity. Relatedly, staple food prices in Nigeria were expected to have risen above 2015 prices and the five-year average by September 2016.”

According to him, “Food value chains encompasses all actors and activities involved in the food supply chain, and include inputs and production, storage, processing, distribution, transport, retail, and consumption. For example, value chains can bring food produced by rural smallholders to urban consumers and inputs produced in cities or towns to smallholders.

However, weak links along the value chain may disrupt this flow. A lack of inputs, such as seeds and fertilisers or physical and financial impediments to accessing inputs faced by smallholders can weaken the value chain upstream.

He added that, a lack of processing, milling, cold storage, and transportation can sever value chains midstream. “Poor transportation infrastructure can make it too costly for smallholders to sell their produce downstream to urban consumers and can contribute to greater food losses and waste. Strong value chains are important for improving livelihoods, food security and nutrition,” Fan stressed.

He stated that, despite rice becoming one of Nigeria’s most-consumed staples, and the country making boosting rice production a priority, yet 60 per cent of rice purchased in urban areas is imported due to weak links in the rice value in Nigeria and because of consumers’ concerns about locally-produced rice.
The concerns, according to the report, “include inconsistencies in quality, labeling, and taste problems that arise from poor vertical integration in the domestic rice value chain. For rice, postharvest processing (milling, parboiling, and cleaning) and marketing play key roles.

Yet, with a highly fragmented domestic value chain, the many small- and medium-sized rice Millers that process 80 per cent of Nigerian rice have varied skills and degrees of access to services and information, and little scope for upgrading varieties or technologies, it noted.

The result is wide variation in the quality of the final product in Nigeria, including unfavourable properties such as discoloration and the presence of stones, Lack of traceability along the value chain leads to inconsistencies between variety names and the final product, preventing a link between production and consumer preferences. That consumers prefer the quality, taste, and texture of imported rice over domestic rice-in large part due to the broken rice value chain-is not surprising, the report noted.

Poor Coordination
Although rural and urban areas are interdependent, they are often governed by distinct local entities. When faced with problems of achieving food security and nutrition for their constituents, policy makers may look for solutions solely within their own locales, without recognising the potential of rural -urban linkages.

For example, urban policy makers often turn to urban agriculture to address food insecurity, despite little evidence that urban agriculture alone can substantially reduce urban food insecurity or malnutrition. Rural policy makers may not consider how rural households benefit from connections to urban areas as a means of diversifying income sources, such as the potential of remittances from seasonal or permanent migrants to urban areas.

Lack of land use planning and proper regulation of land tenure will also affect development of urban and peri-urban agriculture. Urban sprawl will affect food security and natural resource availability in places where it causes significant loss of productive peri-urban agricultural land and contributes to degradation of environmental resources.

The expected increases in the urban population in the developing world will be accompanied by a tripling in the built up area of cities from 200,000 to 600,000 square kilometres between 2000 and 2030. The way in which cities are built up will have major implications for establishing connectivity and securing adequate rural -urban linkages, the report noted.

According to it, a lack of shared governance of food security and nutrition and shared management of natural resources may arise from misperceptions about rural and urban areas. Urban food insecurity and malnutrition have been overlooked in low and middle income countries hunger and malnutrition have typically been considered rural problems.

On the other hand, a disproportionate focus on urban areas can bring about an “urban bias” against agriculture and the rural economy in the allocation of development resources and prioritisation of policies to address poverty, it noted.

Policy Coordination

Working together effectively across rural, peri-urban spaces-typically governed by different local entities-requires policy coordination. Policies that cut across rural and urban areas should account for each area’s contribution in order to leverage their different strengths, the report disclosed.

It also urged urban policy makers to look beyond urban agriculture to meet their food security and nutrition needs, and coordinate with their rural counterparts to facilitate the flow of agricultural products into cities. Rural policy makers should recognize the opportunities provided by urbanisation and promote market opportunities for smallholder, traders, processors, and other actors in the food value chain, it added.

Political entities should work together to enhance linkages that span politically distinct locales as a means to facilitate sustainable production, storage, transport, and marketing of safe and nutritious food to urban consumers while reducing food loss and waste.

Establishing policy coordination in planning and regulating the use of land, water, and other resources critical to food production in urban, peri-urban, and rural areas is also important for efficiency and win-win outcomes, the report added.