States in the north-eastern part of the country still struggling to recover from the devastating effects of Boko Haram insurgency, are recording bumper harvests in rice cultivation.
In a recent survey by News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, rice farmers, millers and dealers attributed the development to the pragmatic agricultural policies put in place by the Federal Government.
They also ascribed the development to the positive lessons learnt from harrowing situation brought about by the economic recession in the country.
They observed that apart from the enhanced patronage of local rice, which had boosted the economic status of rice farmers, the price of the produce had stabilised and might even fall drastically due to massive production.
Baba Kaye, Chairman Rice Dealers Association in Gombe State, noted that the intervention of the Federal Government had stabilised the price of rice for some time now.
“The price has remained stable without fluctuating; we are grateful to the Federal Government for encouraging dry season farming and this has impacted positively on us,” he said.
Tasiu Kuri, a rice farmer in Kuri village of Gombe State, attributed the increase in rice production to the decision of Federal Government to ban the importation of foreign rice through the country’s land borders.
Yahaya Yusuf, Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN, in Bauchi State, projected that the state alone would cultivate about one million tonnes of rice in 2017, as against the 600,000 tonnes it cultivated in 2016.
Musa Takari, a rice farmer in Gashua, Yobe, said that the ban on importation of rice had also provoked an increase in the consumption of local rice, thereby triggering massive production.
“Before now, the market has been very bad and discouraging but the increased patronage has made us to produce more rice,” he said.
The story has been similar in other parts of the country, as there has been dramatic increase in quantity of rice produced by rice farmers across the country.
In Abakaliki, for instance, the state government said that it had met the target of producing 350,000 tonnes of rice, which it set for the 2016 farming season.
The Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Uchenna Orji, told NAN in Abakaliki, that the state was able to achieve that feat because the state government invested massively in rice production in 2016.
He stressed that the government’s determination to revolutionalise rice production in Ebonyi was due to its comparative advantage over other states in the area of rice farming.
Mr. Orji said that efforts were underway to ensure that Ebonyi reclaimed its position as the highest rice producing state in West Africa.
In spite of the claims on massive production of rice across the country, NAN observed that the rice milling capacities of the states differed and this, coupled with the different distribution patterns, could explain the scarcity of local rice in the markets.
In Sokoto State, the rice millers, however, said that they were producing below capacity.
Nura Attajiri, the Chairman, Small and Medium Enterprises, SME, Rice Millers Association in the state, said that the rice millers produced only about 150 tonnes per annum.
“Although there are 255 millers, with machines having installed capacity of producing about 350 tonnes of milled rice per annum, in the state, their output is just about 150 tonnes per annum.
“This shortfall is caused by the various challenges facing the millers; these include poor electricity supply and inadequate funds to procure paddy for processing, among others.
“As such, we have been campaigning and looking into how the state government and other relevant agencies can boost the rice production capacity of millers through various intervention programmes.
“Moreover, the Federal Government’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, launched in Kebbi State, did not include SME millers but only integrated millers, while Sokoto State has no integrated millers.
“Although the state government is putting in more efforts to assist us to improve production, we need more government intervention, particularly in the area of rice processing.”
However, the zonal chapter of RIFAN in Daura, Katsina State, said that the absence of rice milling plants in Daura had been a major limitation to efforts to produce rice.
Nura Baure, the zonal chairman of the association, said that although there were rice milling plants in Batagarawa and Funtua, “those areas are very far from our farmers and the transportation cost is a burden to our farmers.
“I don’t even know the capacity of those rice milling plants,” he added.
Mr. Baure, nonetheless, said that there was a subsisting agreement between the association and an off-taker company, ZIL Nigeria Ltd. that rice produced in the Daura and its environs would be milled by the company.
In Port Harcourt, Awotien George of Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Environment, Rivers State University of Science and Technology, RSUST, Port Harcourt, said that the few rice mills in the state were non-functional.
He recalled that the dearth of functional rice mills in the state compelled Port Harcourt Glorious Cooperative Society to transport the rice, which was produced during 2016 planting season, to Ebonyi for milling.
He, therefore, urged the state government to be actively involved in agricultural production.
Also, plans are underway by the Adamawa Government to establish three giant rice milling centres in the state, according to Umar Bindir, Chairman, State Project Management Team of Anchor Borrowers Programme.
He said that the state government, through its agency, Agricultural Development and Investment Ltd., had concluded arrangements to establish the rice milling centres.
Bindir, who is also the Secretary to Adamawa Government, said that the centres would also serve as marketing boards, which would purchase paddy directly from farmers before processing it and selling it to consumers across the country.
Nevertheless, Abbo Jiddere, the state AFAN Chairman, said that the association was consulting with other stakeholders on how to establish rice mills in the state.
The situation is somewhat different in Kebbi, a major rice producing state in the country, as the state is home to large rice mills such as WACOT Rice Mill and Labana Rice Mill.
Abdullahi Zuru, the General Manager of Labana Rice Mill, said that the mill, which was established at the cost of N5 billion, had the capacity to process and package 16 tonnes of rice within an hour.
He said that the mill, which had 2,000 employees, had three different means of obtaining paddy.
Mr. Zuru said that the mill acquired paddy from 6,000 rice farmers and 3,000 farmers who were registered with the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme, as well as paddy merchants from other states and countries like Benin Republic, Niger Republic and Burkina Faso.
“Labana Rice Mill has a well-established distribution chain, from the factory to major towns in the state like Birnin Kebbi, Zuru, Yauri, Argungu, and towns in other states such as Kano, Jos, Kaduna, Sokoto, Gusau, Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Aba,’’ he said.
Mr. Zuru said that Labana Rice Mill had played a prominent role in the success of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) existing between Lagos and Kebbi States with regard to the processing and packaging of “Lake Rice.’’
“Labana Rice Mill has processed and packaged over 2,000 tonnes of `Lake Rice’, which had been supplied to Lagos State, as part of the MoU,” he said.
As regards “Lake Rice’’ – the product of the joint venture between Lagos and Kebbi states, some residents of Lagos State, however, complained about its scarcity in the market.
For instance, Temitope Ajayi, a resident of the Abule-Egba area of the state, said that she had not heard of the rice sales or anybody buying the commodity since early January.
She said that the rice was not in the market, adding that those, who were able to buy “Lake Rice’’ in December, however, admitted that its quality was good.
However, Sanni Okanlawan, Special Adviser on Food Security to Governor Akinwumi Ambode, told NAN that Lagos State Government still had enough consignment of “Lake Rice’’ for distribution to interested members of the public, out of the stock that was produced last December.
He said that more distribution centres would be opened so as to ensure that the commodity was available to more Lagos residents.
The special adviser said that part of the rice, which was delivered to Lagos State in December, was still stocked at the Imota Mill Plant.
Mr. Okanlawon said that at intervals, the rice would be distributed to centres across the state’s local government areas where people could buy it at the price of N12,000 per 50kg. bag and N6,000 per 25kg. bag.
He said: “`Lake Rice’ is still available at our 2.5-metric-ton rice milling plant in Imota, from the December consignment from our partner state, Kebbi.’’
All the same, Manu Sandamu, an agricultural extension officer in Daura, Katsina State, bemoaned the absence of regulated channels of rice distribution between farmers, millers, marketers and consumers across the country.
“Definitely, there is increasing patronage for our local rice but that, in essence, means that the rice distribution chain should no longer rely on patchwork methods,” he added.
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