Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The federal government yesterday moved to boost rice production by signing a N10 billion contract for the construction of integrated large-scale rice processing plants in ten states of the federation.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed yesterday between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and MV Agro PVT of India and its partners,  MV Agro Engineers Nigeria limited.

The 10 states where the rice mills will be cited are Anambra, Kaduna, Kebbi, Ogun, Zamfara, Kogi, Benue, Bauchi, Niger and Bayelsa.
The MoU will enable the conclusion of the plant’s procurement procedures, installation and inauguration.

According to the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, the 10 plants are to be deliveredwithin 18 months or latest by December 2019.
He said each plant would have the capacity to produce 30,000 metric tonnes of rice per annum.
The cost of each plant is N1 billion.

Ogbeh justified the agreement with the Indian equipment makers, saying in the past, the deal for 10 mills would only have covered four mills.

In spite of this bold initiative, the proposed plants will only boost Nigeria’s rice production capacity by an additional 300,000 metric tonnes per year, according him.

Nigeria’s current annual rice production capacity is only about four million MT below the national annual demand of seven million MT.
At present there are only 18 operating large-scale rice plants in Nigeria, each having annual processing capacity varying from 15,000 MT- 120,000 MT per year.

“We can’t afford spending $5 billion again per year importing rice. 13 million Nigerians are in the farms growing rice and the number can get to 20 million,” Ogbeh said.