During a courtesy visit to Nestle Nigeria Plc. in Lagos, the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, revealed that plans were afoot by the Federal Government to commence export of locally produced rice in the next two years. Taiwo Hassan reports
Indeed, the commencement of the Federal Government’s rice policy in the country’s agric sector by President Muhammadu Buhari has today made the country a leading producer of rice in Africa following recent statistics released by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Africa Rice Center.
The statistics showed that Nigeria was now the numero uno in Africa in terms of rice production with capacity storage of four million tonnes, surpassing Egypt and Madagascar respectively.
For stakeholders in rice value chain, attaining the continent’s new position did not come easily. The success is attributable to hard work, conducive clime and support of the Federal Government in ensuring that the non-oil sector of the economy becomes the lead in GDP contribution.
At the beginning
In 2015, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) targeted at boosting agric and manufacturing value chains in line with Federal Government’s economic agenda to improve revenue earnings for the economy.
Besides, the timing to aggressively invest in rice cultivation by the present administration came with challenges because it was the period oil prices at the international market crashed to all-time low.
That same year, the CBN launched the ABP in 14 states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Zamfara, Adamawa, Plateau, Lagos, Ogun, Cross-Rivers and Ebonyi for rice and wheat farmers to advance their status from small holder farmers to commercial or large growers of the commodity.
During the flag-off in Birni-Kebbi, Kebbi State, the CBN set aside N40 billion out of the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund (MSMEDF) for local farmers at single digit interest rate of maximum nine per cent per annum under the ABP so as to encourage intensive rice production in the country.
As history would have it, the country’s rice industry has never been the same again as the Federal Government’s decision on rice policy gave new vista for the country’s non-oil sector to overtake the oil sector as the leading revenue earner to the GDP
However, in the space of four years, the rebirth of the country’s rice value chain through the APB has brought recognition to Nigeria at both continental and global levels with the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation affirming the impact of inclusive growth in rice production under the Buhari’s administration to ensure food sufficiency in rice production.
Following the intention to ban rice importation into the country in favour of local rice production, there has been aggressive move by private sector –led firms to invest in rice mills in order to boost rice production in the country.
Particularly, many rice millers have commenced rice cultivation, in line with government’s rice policy to ensure sufficiency in the country to boost production.
Similarly, the border closure has also seen hundreds of rice mills spring up, while those that were moribund are now being activated in many rice-producing states of the federation. It has been reported that the border closure drastically brought down rice smuggling, which has affected farmers, processors and investors positively.
To prove how good the country has gone, during a recent visit to Lagos, the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, revealed that locally produced rice would be exported to other countries in the next two years.
In fact, this is cheering news for Nigeria as many rice merchants are already bracing to commence export to neighbouring countries and beyond with the tag ‘Proudly Made in Nigeria.’
According to Nanono, Federal Government’s move on border closure boosted the productivity of milling plants in Nigeria, which were formerly operating below capacities.
Affirming there has been a great improvement in the production of rice in the country, he said “if we maintain the momentum in the next two years, we may export rice to other countries. “Nanono also said that the increased production of rice in the country had stirred the expansion of local rice value chains and pave way for job creation.
“As at today, we have 11 rice milling plants with the capacity to produce from 180 tonnes to 350 tonnes of rice per day.
“In a few months, another mill with a capacity to produce 400 tonnes of rice per day is going to be opened, with another upcoming 34 smaller mills; then, we have clusters in different areas,” Nanono disclosed.
The minister also hinted that to avoid challenges in processing, the country would cultivate rice in a nine-month cycle, stressing that from November to January, rice is not being grown in Nigeria. He, however, hopes that the cycle will widen to upscale production.
He said: “I was worried in terms of the production of rice, but what I have found out is that most rice producers have stocked rice for the next six months.
“This means that before the stock is finished, dry season rice will be harvested, and before that finishes, the rainy season will come back.”
He further noted that local rice farmers were being engaged fully in clusters and they use between 200 and 300 farmlands directly to achieve the targeted output.
With Federal Government’s projection of rice export in two years’ time, Nigeria is on the verge of earning more foreign exchange (forex) to boost her revenue profile. However, despite the ambition, Nigerians are yet to feel adequate presence of local rice even as the price remains exorbitant where available.