â€¢ Says rice revolution is enough to guarantee Buhariâ€™s re-election
Tobi Soniyi and Eromosele Abiodun
The federal government has announced its plans to achieve self-sufficiency in paddy production in two years by 2020.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this at a press conference in Lagos yesterday, said the agricultural revolution in general and the rice revolution in particular have taken millions of Nigerians out of poverty.
He said 60 per cent of rice eaten in Nigeria is produced locally, adding that the rice revolution alone is enough to guarantee the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari if he decides to run again!
Nigeria, the minister added, had never been closer to self-sufficiency in rice, a national staple food, than now.
He stressed that this has been made possible by the purposeful leadership of President Buhari, â€œwho has consistently said this country must produce what it consumes. Recall that President Buhari launched the Anchor Borrowersâ€™ Programme on November 17, 2015. The programme aims to provide farm inputs in cash and kind to smallholder farmers in order to boost local production of commodities, including rice, stabilise inputs supply to agro-processors and address the countryâ€™s negative balance of payments on food.
â€œThe result is the exponential growth in local rice production that has now moved us closer to ending rice importation. Within two years, rice importation from Thailand fell from 644,131 metric tons in September 2015 to 20,000 MT in September 2017. Thatâ€™s over 90 per cent drop.
â€œLet me put things in perspective. So far, less than N100 billion has been spent on the anchor borrowersâ€™ programme that has achieved so much. Meanwhile, in April 2008, the federal government had to quickly release N80 billion from the Natural Resources Development Fund to import 500,000 MT of rice in order to cushion what it said was the effect of a global disaster. Imagine that we had ploughed that money into rice production in 2008! We would have been exporting rice by now.â€
On where Nigeria stands today in rice farming, milling and distribution, the minister said: â€œAccording to the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), there are more than 11 million rice farmers in Nigeria today, up from five million in 2015. RIPANâ€™s total investment in the Nigerian economy is in excess of N300 billion. Upcoming investments will amount to N250 billion. The new investments will add 5,000 jobs and additional 1,775,000MT of integrated rice milling capacity. It will save $300 million foreign exchange from import substitution through local processing. Nigeriaâ€™s rice paddy production has seen significant growth in the past three years from four million MT to seven million MT. Nigeriaâ€™s rice import bill, hitherto was at $1.65 billion annually, has dropped by over 90 per cent.â€
Speaking on the challenge of rice smuggling, he said smuggling is the biggest obstacle facing rice production in Nigeria.
He said: â€œAccording to the Rice Millers Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RIMIDAN), over two million MT of parboiled rice were smuggled into Nigeria in 2017-smuggled rice is primarily sourced from Thailand and India and comes into Nigeria through the countryâ€™s borders with Benin Republic, Niger and Cameroon.
Letâ€™s look at rice smuggling through Benin Republic. The total demand for white rice (white rice is consumed in Benin Republic against parboiled rice in Nigeria) is 400,000 MT. Yet the country, with a population of about 11million, imports between one million and 1.2 million MT of rice annually.â€
While stressing that the federal government has achieve giant strides in fertilizer, he said fertilizer production in Nigeria today is a success story.
â€œBuhari set up the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) in December 2016 to deliver commercially-significant quantities of affordable and high-quality fertilizer at the right time to the Nigerian farmers. The PFI has turned out to be a magic wand in fertilizer production. Recall that the agriculture sector and the countryâ€™s food production were negatively impacted in 2016, as farmers became exposed to high and rising prices for key agricultural inputs. In 2017, PFI delivered 10 million 50-kilogramme bags (500,000MT) of NPK20:10:10 fertilizer at a price of N5,500 in time for the wet season. Thatâ€™s down from the price of N9, 000 per 50kg bag in 2016-a 40 per cent reduction in price. In 2018, PFI targets the delivery of 20 million 50kg bags (one million MT), double the figure for 2017,â€ he explained.