President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Muhammad Aminu Goronyo, said Nigeria was now sufficient in rice production with potential to export left overs to neighbouring countries. He spoke to select journalists recently in Minna, Niger state, when CBN flagged off 2020/21 dry season rice farming. Abdulwahab Isa was there
What’s the significance of this programme to RIFAN?
I don’t need to mention it, you can see display of these rice pyramids here. We did it deliberately so Nigerians don’t panic again with regard to availability of rice. There is panic deliberately instituted to portray scarcity of rice in Nigeria.
But we, the farmers knew there was sufficient rice in Nigeria. More than enough rice is out there for consumption and left overs for export to Africa and neighboring countries. We portray this Egyptian pyramid and also Nigerian pyramid. You can see for yourself.
The paddy you are seeing here is just a scratch of surface. If you know the quantity, we cultivated in Niger state, they are over 100 times of what is on display here. This is in Niger state alone, we have same thing in Rivers State, Ebonyi, Sokoto, in Kano and Kaduna and other states, Kogi and virtually all the states across the country.
How come Nigerians are still struggling with scarcity of rice?
You heard in my speech that we have strategic partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria to actualise our three As: Availability, Accessibility the second A’ and Affordability which is the third A. It is strategic plan we don’t want to unveil here. By God’s grace, Nigerians will get rice at the door step of their houses in a short time.
Cost of rice has hit roof top and its affordability is not within the reach of an average family. What is RIFAN doing?
Obviously, it would be available and accessible because of strategies we are putting in place. We intend to create units around 109 senatorial zones to address the issue of transportation cost. If there is no transportation issue, labor, loading and off-loading charges will certainly reduce and price would be affordable.
You canvassed for opening of land borders. Don’t you think that is a floodgate for importation of rice into the country?
What I said was, even if the border is opened Nigeria won’t import rice again. We have more than enough in the country. Let me tell you the beauty of refusing rice entry into Nigeria.
These rice you see here are cultivated by Nigerians. The labor, clearing and other extensive services were done solely by Nigerians. The harvesting, fetching, segregation; bagging done locally. Monies that used to be taken outside Nigeria to bring foreign rice, employment generation exported abroad has been tackled. It’s not just about achieving food security, it’s about wealth creation; security of life and property.
Could you give us a brief background into CBN, RIFAN 2020/21 dry season rice farming?
It was conceived by CBN’s development department and the rice farmers’ association under the strategic partnership of RIFAN model in order to achieve the rice sufficiency programme initiated by the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari.
Why we call it special rice seedling is be cause we are going to achieve good rice season cropping in one dry season calendar. It has never happened in the history of Nigeria’s dry season to have two dry seasons. Why we decided to initiate the two dry seasons is because of what the CBN has decided to come up with.
The challenge of food security in the country will be tackled. Under dry season, if you can control price you will be able to achieve at least two to five million metric tonnes of rice under the two-cropping season, so that the remaining of what we need to consume per annum will just be a little.
What we need will not be more than one million, maximum 2.5 million because our consumption capacity in Nigeria annually is between 7.5 and eight million metric tons per annum.
So, if we can achieve five million metric tons under dry season, it means under the wet season programme will make it three cropping seasons, we would be able to achieve another five million metric tons, and if you achieve five million metric tons.
Our consumption capacity is between 7.5 and eight million metric tons; it means we would have enough to consume locally and even export the surplus we have and that is why the central bank has decided to sit with us and come out with this beautiful dry season strategic programme.
Do you think the scenario you painted is realisable given the prevailing circumstance?
Oh yes. we can achieve it because in the northern part of the country, we have long dry season period ranging from seven to eight months and the cultivation period under transplanting system is between 90 to 120 days. If that is the case, comfortably we would be able to achieve two production cycle. Nigeria doesn’t need to import rice from any country,
God has blessed us with enough rice land to cultivate enough rice for Nigerians to consume and even export the rest to neighboring African countries. We thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his vision, understanding when he took over the mantle of leadership of this country.
His first programme and policy statement was that we must grow what we eat. When he mentioned that, so many Nigerians did not take it seriously but he insists that we must grow what we eat.
He did not even stay there, he said waiver should not be issued to importers of rice and agricultural produce. We know that CBN used to give $368 billion naira as forex to the importers of rice in this country before this administration came into place, but from 2015, no kobo was deliberately issued as forex.
This is the second step of Mr President to make Nigeria self-sufficient and not only that he said let’s close our borders so that Nigerians will wake up and grow what they eat.
It was really a hard decision but we were under the border closure, suddenly, there was Covid-19 lockdown globally and there is no country today that can even grow what they eat talk less of exporting to Nigeria.
So, had it been president doesn’t have this vision, and took that hard decision by now with the Covid-19 lockdown, I don’t know where Nigeria would have been with more than 200 million people that consume food every morning.
Your view about Nigerian youths and graduates on agriculture
What the Federal Government is doing on rice production in the country calls for joint effort by all Nigerians, especially the youths to ensure that rice import is put to a stop. RIFAN is not only a part of FG’s efforts to ensure this but also driving other advocacy groups in the drive for self-sufficiency on rice.
As a giant of African, Nigeria’s RIFAN is at the driving seat on the side of farmers.
We are also on the platform of African Rice Advocacy. Nigeria has competitive advantage to convert our vast land into money and so is Africa. As young ones and irrespective of your area of study, taking into agriculture is important for our continent.
For sustainable agriculture to be, you as young ones must complement the efforts of the old farmers and take over from them when they become older.
You should take this advocacy to your various i n s t i t u – tions in the v a r i o u s countries of Africa. When Nigeria succeeds, A f r i c a will succeed and when Africa succ e e d s, t h e wo rl d w i l l t a k e heed.