Strengthening Local Rice Production

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The decision of the federal government to close the country’s land borders has resulted to increased local rice production, writes Oluchi Chibuzor

The volume of rice produced locally has soared to eight million metric tonnes with the federal government aiming to achieve 18 million tonnes by 2023.

This development can only be sustained if farmers are motivated towards increasing yield per hectares across the federation to meet the Agricultural Policy Programme.

This would ensure food security and increase agro-export to boost the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Reports have it that Nigeria has about 12 million rice farmers, and the number is expected to keep growing.

Global rice consumption remains strong. It is driven by both population and economic growth in many Asian and African countries, as Nigerian rice value chain is characterised by yields that are far below what would be possible with improved management, improved market information and structure, and sufficient and updated rice-processing capacity.

Consolidating Achievement
World rice production statistics revealed that in 2018, out of the 14.6 million metric tonnes of paddy produced annually on 7.3 million hectares of land in Africa, Nigeria’s production rose from 3.7 million tonnes in 2017 to 4.0 million metric tonnes. Through the anchor borrower’s scheme, reports on rice production in Nigeria said it has hit eight million metric tonnes, with the nation aiming at 18 million tonnes by 2023.

According to Cyril Okonkwo, a rice seller at Mile 12 market, Lagos, although the margin of profit between foreign to Nigerian rice is still high, it is pertinent that the nation support home grown rice producers to encourage local farmers in various states.
He said government should discourage importation with heavy duty to aid local farmers.

He also said, since he started selling his product in the market, there has never been a period that demand for local rice was high compared to what is obtainable now, noting that people have adjusted to the reality that the local rice farmers can close the gap.

“By this time last year when we started selling rice in this market, we were not displaying the produced locally, but now it has replaced foreign rice. As a compatriot Nigerian I fully support Nigerian government on the closure of the border, to encourage local farmers who are producing what we are selling now,” he said.

Another rice dealer pleaded to remain anonymous, said, “local rice is good for consumption and local farmers should be encouraged to produce more as we have some quality rice in the market.”

In its Food Price Index report released in November, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated that world rice production was likely to reach 515 million tonnes, a mere 0.5 percent drop from the record set in 2018, “with Egypt, Madagascar and Nigeria all poised to spearhead a rebound for African rice production this season.”

Up-scaling Small-holders Farmers
According to Rice Almanac, a publication of Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), Policies and conditions that offer opportunities for developing the rice sector in the country, includes zero tariffs on agricultural machinery and equipment, a large domestic market for rice products and by-products, government subsidies on fertilizer, seed, and tractors and implements, and guaranteed minimum price support for farmers.

Igbo Obianuju, a rice farmer in Saminaka, Lere Local Government Area in Kaduna state, who cultivates the commodity on four hectares of land, highlighted her challenges to include high cost of machines for processing and fertilizers, and low yield per hectares.

She said rice cultivation was good, but the returns on investment since the border closure is being gained by the middle men.
She also added that farmers bought NPK last year at the rate of N 8,000 before it went up to N12,000, thus reducing the level of profit.
“Am in Kaduna, I have to travel down to Kano for me to get atleast a machine that can de-stoning for me, because if I sell my rice at the rate of N8000 to N 9000 am at a great lost.
“But the border closure is helping farmers who are also in processing. To plant and harvest is one thing, but to process is also another thing,” she explained.

She, however, was optimistic that considering the quantity of local rice in circulation, with support to over 12 million rice farmers, the nation would close its domestic gaps.

“On our rice farm in different locations, when we harvested we got about 10.7 tonnages of rice on approximately four hectares of land. And my plan is to go into processing if government can boost my capacities.
“As a farmer you do not gain money if you are not into processing. Then secondly the machine for good finishing is not available and is a major problem we are having here,” she lamented.

Meanwhile, the State Deputy-Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter, Shakin Abgayewa, was of the opinion that inclination to imported rice consumption should be discourage by all stakeholders to attract enough investment to improve the quality of rice.
“Our local farmers have the capacities to produce our own rice, but because of the orientation our people that foreign rice is better than the local one, so we have that issue of increase of rice during the festive period,” he reiterated.

Increasing Patronage
The market value of the current quantity of local rice produced in Nigeria, according to analysts, is about N684 billion, thus making the country the 16th top producer of rice in the world.
According to the General Manager, Elephant Group, a rice milling company, Dr. Rotimi Fashola, “Since the boarder closure, the number of rice millers has actually doubled and that is because people can now see the light after the tunnel-commercially value of it.
“If I have an investment in rice milling and they are flooding the market with imported rice, then I do need incentives to put money in rice milling.”

Demand for rice is expected to continue to increase in coming years, at least up until 2035. According to a comprehensive study conducted by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (or FAPRI), the world’s demand for milled rice could be expected to rise to 496 million tons in 2020, from 439 million tons in 2010.

By 2035, this requirement would likely further rise to an estimated 555 million tons.
According to the report, “Not surprisingly, rice will account for almost half of these countries food expenditures, not only for the extreme poor, but also for those of mid-level and high income statuses.”

Fashola, said on improving quality of the local rice which has always been major complains from local consumers, he noted categorically that, “the quality of rice keeps increasing with more people patronising.

“But if I can have a breakthrough in my investment then more and more people would come. We started with just 20 now we are hitting almost 40, so more millers are coming and the quality is improving,” he stated.
He, however, emphasised that the quality of home grown rice depends on increased demand, because as they receive more patronage for Nigerian made rice, it would invariably affect the quality which means more investment.

Regulation and Monitoring
Commenting further on the issue, Agbayewa said, “when we all agree to push the market, rebrand our own and educate our people on why they must patronize local farmers as against foreign rice, people will still feel reluctant to patronize us.

“The distributors are also among those giving the local farmers problems. During the festive period, what they did was that they bought foreign rice, bag it in Nigerian bags and put high price on it; this distracted people from buying local rice, selling at N17,000 to N18,000 as against the local rice that was supposed to be N14, 000 to N15, 000,” he revealed.

On sabotaging the rice value chain according to him, “most of these syndicates are mostly Nigerians, so until necessary law enforcement agencies enforce arrest and showcased them to deter other people.

“This situation was what made Lagos state Government not to sell their own rice; because most of their distributors hoard the rice, increased price and even re-bagged it in foreign bag just to make more money.”

On strengthening capacity of farmers to grow their businesses, he noted that most of the alleged cabals were beginning to subside as their gimmicks would not work again.

“They only capitalise on the gaps created by lack of preparedness of the local farmers.
“Right now in the market you will begin to see more of local rice in the market and people are patronising our products. All we need is that government should not open the borders now.”