President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr. Akinwumi Adesina, at the weekend, said Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, will become the largest exporter of rice in the world by 2021. Adesina, who spoke at the Mo Ibrahim Forum in Morocco, said Africa should focus on agriculture to drive growth and employment on the continent.
He recalled that during his tenure as Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture, Dangote decided to invest in local production of rice due to the government’s import substitution policy. The AfDB president added that Dangote initially planned a $300 million investment in production and processing of rice in Nigeria, but later changed it to $1 billion three months after. “If they continue with that policy, he would probably be the single largest producer of rice in the world, in about four years.
“The reason why I was so excited about that is that agriculture is cool, agriculture is a business and agriculture pays,” Adesina said. Dangote, said he ventured into rice cultivation because of government’s interest to revive agriculture as the mainstay of the economy and reduce importation of food that could be produced locally.
He lamented that Nigeria consumes 6.5 million metric tonnes of rice, which costs the nation more than $2 billion annually and commended the government’s policy that encourages private sector’s active participation in agriculture.
“In the next three years, we want to produce one million tonnes of quality rice, make it available and affordable to the people. “We hope to do 150, 000 hectares and when we are done, Nigeria will not have anything to do with importation of rice,” Dangote said.
According to him, Dangote Rice Outgrowers Scheme was committed to creating employment, increasing incomes of smallholders’ farmers and ensuring food security in the country.
He said that to achieve the goal, the scheme would provide high quality seeds, fertilizers, agro-chemicals and technical assistance on best agricultural practices to farmers.
“This scheme will help to diversify the economy, alleviate poverty and reduce the nation’s import bill. “The scheme has been designed as a one stop solution for the rice value chain,” Dangote stated. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the pilot phase of the Dangote Outgrowers Scheme launched in Sokoto State would create jobs for 16,000 rice farmers in the state.