Olawale Ajimotokan in Kano
The federal government has projected the number of people cultivating rice in the country to hit 18 million from next year amid the disputes with its West African neighbours on the closure of its land borders to stem smuggling of the staple.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the estimation yesterday in Kano during a courtesy call on Governor Abdulahi Ganduje of Kano State.
Mohammed led a delegation comprising the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono and the Sector 4 Coordinator, Assistant Comptroller General, Mr Bashir Abubakar on a tour of some integrated rice mills in Kano.
The tour, which was to assess the impact of the border closure on the entire rice production value chain, saw them visiting the Al-Hamsad Rice Mill, Kura Brothers Rice Mill, Tiamin Rice Limited and Umza International Farms.
The number of people into rice farming in the country, according to the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), is 12.2million.
The minister, however, said that the number could be surpassed as at least six million youths are now venturing into rice farming, while many farmers had started three-times-a-year cultivation in order to meet the increasing demand for the staple.
“It means that we could hit 18 million rice farmers in no time if the present trend continues. And this is a positive fallout of the border drill,” Mohammed declared.
He noted that the closure has reduced smuggled rice and given the entire rice production value chain a new lease of life. “Currently, the integrated mills now produce about 150,000 bags of rice every day, translating to 35 million bags annually. In addition, the 34 mills are expanding rapidly in order to increase capacity and meet the rising demands. More mills are also springing up in all parts of the country. Also, the small scale rice clusters in all parts of the country are now back on stream and feeding their local communities, and the farmers are the biggest beneficiaries,” Mohammed said.