Ondo: Rice not yet a priority product
Despite huge opportunities that abound for massive rice production in Ondo State, none of the 18 council areas is producing rice at commercial rate. There are only 25 large farms of 418 hectares spread across eight councils of the state, while none of the farms produce rice in commercial quantity.
The Chairman of Ondo State Agricultural Commodities Association (OSACA), Chief Akin Olotu, described the efforts of the state government since its creation on February 3, 1976 in the production of rice as “zero.”
According to him, the only agency supporting rice farming in the state is FADAMA, which sponsored two farmers for rice training session in Abuja under Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JAICA); but there are land constraints.
“The major limiting factor here is land. Land is limiting cultivation,” he stressed, emphasising that “the total package of rice produced in the state is not enough for feed mill to process in a week, if its capacity is 50 tonnes per day.
The OSACA boss dispelled the insinuation that some parts of the state and their soil are not good enough for rice plantation. “In the south here, our land is good and fantastic, we can do all year round rice farming. Within three months the gestation is ripe; at least, we can do three cycles. Another problem is that there is no organised effort in this direction. We depend on the north for rice and everything.”
He implored the state government to open up the five major rivers in the state and utilise the stretches of land surrounding them. “Let there be earthen dams here and there, so that people can use them to produce rice and other agro-produce. Government should open up land, not necessarily the forest, but community land.”
Though the only institution with such mandate, Federal College of Agriculture, Akure (FECA) has made several trailblazing efforts through the Vitamin A bio-fortified maize and cassava production, the small packs of rice displayed at the college’s agroshop and Point of Sale (PoS), shows that much is still expected from the institution.
Provost of the college, Dr. Samson Odedina, said the college is in partnership with many of the farmers not only to offer them professional services, but also to provide market for their small quantity production despite land constraints and to encourage them.
Odedina, who has always raised alarm over encroachment on the college land, also identified the importance of land availability to mass rice production, which he said, alongside other supports, can only be provided by state government for expansion.
Nevertheless, he assured that the school would not desist from giving technical support to the farmers, revealing that efforts are in top gear to include rice farming in FECA’s adopted villages, schools and value chain projects.
What appears as good news was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Africa Red Crest (Nigeria) Limited, few days ago, on the production of 37,500 tonnes of rice per annum, for export and local consumption.
The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. Aderotimi Adelola, who represented government, revealed that the MoU is aimed at the expansion of rice production in the country, adding that it will bring about large scale, mechanised rice production and related activities in the state. He described the company as an expert renowned for its black soil farming system, stressing that the cultivation of 500 hectares covers the first two years.