Rice farmers in Plateau are optimistic of a bumper harvest this year with their chairman, Joshua Bitrus, boasting that members would garner “ at least one million tonnes”.
“This year’s harvest is plentiful; from what we have seen on ground, we expect nothing less than one million tonnes of rice in Plateau,” Mr. Bitrus, Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RiFAN), Plateau chapter, said in Jos on Sunday.
He spoke in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria.
The RiFAN chairman attributed the feat to personal efforts of the farmers and the support from the state government.
He commended the federal government’s efforts towards boosting rice production, and declared that rice production would tripple in Plateau, when the Anchor Borrowers Scheme takes off.
“I must commend government for the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, initiated by the Central Bank of Nigeria, which will be test-run in Plateau during the dry season farming.
“We have identified 1,065 hectares of land across the state; the areas are close to water because water is crucial to rice farming.
“The planting will commence in the first week of December, while harvest starts by March next year.”
According to him, the success of the pilot scheme will boost farmers’ morale and shore up interest in the scheme.
Mr. Bitrus also commended the ban on the importation of rice, noting that it had encouraged local farmers.
He opined that with the quantity of rice being harvested in many parts of the country, the pains rice consumers went through when the price rose up, would reduce as the prices would drop considerably.
The chairman disclosed that a 50kg bag of rice sold at N23,000 in the southern part of Plateau last month, currently sells at between N12,000 and N15,000.
He expressed hope that the price would remain at that level so that farmers could get “something reasonable for their efforts and be encouraged to cultivate more in coming years”.
Mr. Bitrus, however, expressed the fear that middlemen might invade Plateau and mop up the rice at very cheap rates.
“We have reported our fears to the state Ministry of Agriculture who briefed the governor and encouraged him to approve some measures.
“It is a bit late but not too late because we have barns and silos in local governments. The state government can buy, store and re-sell the rice to citizens in times of food shortage or scarcity,” he added.
He noted that rice could be kept for more than five years if properly stored, and advised farmers against hurried sales that could only perpetuate the circle of hardship and poverty that had been their lot over the years.