Olawale Ajimotokan in Birnin Kebbi

Kebbi State has projected an aggregate production target of 2.5 million metric tonnes of paddy rice at the end of the 2018 dry and rainy planting seasons.

The target is also to provide Nigeria with 50 per cent of its rice requirement.
The estimation was given on Monday by the state’s commissioner of Agriculture, Garba Mohammed Dandiga, at a media tour of the major rice producing areas of the state.

Dandiga also disputed the agricultural performance survey (APS) carried out by the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), which put its national output for last year at 411,490 metric tonnes as misleading and inaccurate.

The survey had placed Kebbi as the fifth biggest rice producing state in the country behind Niger and Kogi States.

He said the state government had acquired 100 tractors, 300 power tillers, 300 threshers and 200 ripers to support paddy rice growing.

In addition, he said that rice is grown in 16 of the 22 local government areas of the state.
While addressing reporters, he described the Suru rice cluster settlement is the biggest paddy market in the state, saying it produced 1.5 million bags of rice (115,384mt) last year.

“From the look of things, we expect a bumper harvest this year. Normally, if the yield increases, the tonnage also increases. We want to produce 2.5 million metric tonnes, ” Dandiga said.

He said government had assisted farmers to increase output by subsidizing the prices of fertilizer.
He however, refused to guarantee that rice will sell as low as N8,000 at the end of the year. He said farmers would not be forced to sell below the production cost as they are buying fuel at N300 per litre.

Meanwhile, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has credited the federal government’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme with the current revolution in rice production across the country.

He stated this in Jega, Kebbi State, while leading the media on an inspection of rice farms across the state.
He said the benefits that have accrued to rice farmers in the provision of improved seedling, farm input and extension services have led to the increase of yield per hectare from 2.5 to between 10 and 11 metric tonnes.

“The difference between then and now is the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme because with the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, the average farmer today is assisted in terms of input, agronomic practices and seedling.

“So this system has now taken the burden off the farmer and given him what he normally would have gone out to buy or procure. But the important thing is that from 2.5 metric tonnes to 10 to 11 metric tonnes within the same space, I think is a new revolution,” Mohammed said.

He said with 32 states currently covered by the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, the federal government is determined to turn Nigeria into a net exporter of rice in the not distant future.

“Two years ago, Nigeria used to import 644,000 metric tonnes of rice
from Thailand. Today, we import less than 20,000 metric tonnes…..
But I think the most important thing for us in Nigeria is to see that officially we have been able to eliminate over 90% of rice importation into Nigeria,” the Minister said.

He said that a new pilot scheme that targets the cultivation of 200,000 hectares of rice has taken off with 31,000 farmers being empowered by the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
He said that already, the federal government has grown the number of rice farmers from 5million two years ago to over 12 million currently.