Adani Rice Farmers Lament Low Patronage, Seek Intervention
THE Adani community in Uzo-uwani Council of Enugu State is reputed for rice cultivation and production. Its prowess in this area is due to the existence of vast agricultural area good enough for rice farming.
The five villages that make up the Adani community including Iga, Ojo, Ogurugu, Asaba and Adani are rice-farming areas.
The inhabitants are predominately rice farmers, who engage in the trade in commercial quantities to carter for their families among other welfare needs. An average Adani man owns several plots of arable land, which is used for cultivation of rice.
They hardy leave the area in search of white collar job due to their preference for rice cultivation. Indeed, those who had engaged in the profession over the years confessed that it had been a thriving one based on the level of patronage.
“The business has always boomed because Nigerians from all walks of life as much as possible patronise us,” Mr. Joshua Okonkwo, 32, who is the Vice Chairman, Adani Rice Farmers Association, told The Guardian.
However, it would appear that the fame which the area had recorded in the past years through rice cultivation using the vast farm lands is now being eroded by the federal government’s new policy in agriculture, especially rice production.
This is because processed local rice filled the many warehouses in Adani, waiting for buyers and the situation is seriously affecting the local rice farmers.
The federal government, it could be recalled, had embarked on a revolution in rice production and through the federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development established 10 medium sized mills with the capacity of 36,000 metric tons each in the six geo-political zones in the state.
About six of the mills are said to be working at full capacity at the moment with the Tara Rice Mills promoted by Engr. Charles Ugwuh located at Adani, as the latest. The mill is said to be the largest of the six with 42,000 metric tons capacity.
What is produced here, added to the imported rice that saturated the nation’s markets have made the price of rice affordable and accessible, thereby affecting local production.
Majority of the local farmers at Adani said they may not return to rice farming this agricultural season should the situation continue, insisting that government must come to their aid to salvage the ugly development.
To overcome the low sales syndrome, the farmers have formed corporatives as well as resorted to processing rice only when there was order for it.
Brushing aside the deplorable state of road that is the hallmark of the entire rice growing community, The Guardian encountered the rice farmers, who took turns to narrate their ugly experience.
Overcoming the plethora of potholes and gullies that have almost cut off the major road leading to the community was the first major challenge.
Inside Adani many young boys and girls, men and women engage in rice farming. It was a sorry state for many of the rural dwellers as the community has reportedly been without electricity supply for over seven months. The only sources of water include the stream and water channels used for rice cultivation.
There are several warehouses, stock-filled with processed rice waiting to be sold. Several heaps of unprocessed rice and paddy littered most compounds. Over 30 mills reportedly exist in the area, many of which open only when there is order for processing of rice.
At the Adani rice market that opens daily, except Saturday and Sunday, it was observed that several bags of rice on display were waiting for few buyers.
It was learnt that the market, before now, was a beehive of activities, but that had continued to dwindle on daily basis to the point that one segment of the market lay without any activity. Traders encountered wore long faces.
Secretary of the Market, Mr. Cyprian Ezea, 38, who graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in the department of Physics and Astronomy in 2012, said the low patronage is affecting the market and farmers.
“Our rice is stone-free, yet we do not have enough customers. We buy 300kg at N8,500 from the farmers. After removing the chaff, we sell 50kg at N4,200. The price is too low and this has discouraged the sellers and farmers alike. If you know what we pass through here, planting and harvesting, you will then appreciate why we are crying.
Ezea, who said he was born and brought up in rice farming and has acquired several rice farms, added that the federal government should come to the aid of the local rice farmers.
For instance, it was revealed that in the last two years, the farmers had been buying fertilizers from the open market for as much as N6000, adding that since government was interested in launching into agriculture, it should subsidise the input.
Mrs. Ifeanyinwa Chukwu, who operates one of the mills in the area, OC Akanaonu Rice Factory, said they need assistance by way of tractors, fertilizers and chemicals, saying cost of acquiring these implements was on the high side.
She said she has been operating the mill in the last 20 years with hired hands that she pays on daily basis.
“I have however retrenched some of them because nobody buys our paddy. There are no sales for the local rice and we find it very difficult to operate here. I will not ask government to ban importation for now until we are well equipped enough to mass produce, so that we don’t get the price out of the reach of the ordinary Nigerian.
“What I think is that government should have a way of buying back what we produce. If you check what is happening, unless there was a way this could be done, these mills, which government is setting up here and there will end up not serving the purpose. I say this because, people will not be there to patronize them and that will be the beginning of their problems,” she said.
Nigeria’s rice consumption increased since 1970 and created a substantial surge in rice imports, making rice a political commodity in the country. On one side rice became a critical component of the Nigerian diet and the other side, a major consumer of the country’s foreign exchange.
It could be recalled that Nigerian government imposed a ban on rice importation in 1985 with the objective of increasing domestic production. However, in 1995 the import ban was removed as the local supplies, although showing improvement, failed to meet the demand. The lifting of the ban resulted in rapid increase in imports, in spite of repeated hikes on duty levels.
Investigations reveal that the total domestic rice demand of Nigeria is about six million metric tonnes and the feeling is that with such staggering figure, the country would continue to depend on import to meet its demand. About $4.3bn is reportedly spent annually on importation of rice.
Mr. David Nwabuisi, Chairman, Adarice Participating Farmers, said the farmers have the capacity to meet local consumption and reduce spending on rice importation and appealed for the rehabilitation of the Ada dam that supplied water to the farmlands in the past.
The dam, built by an Israeli company, collapsed in 1999 due to lack of maintenance and has remained like that till date.
“It is not the collapse of the dam that only infuriates us, the
collection of the land development fee by the State Ministry of Agriculture is another insult to injury,” he said, adding that with the repair of the dam, “ we can farm all year round than what we do now.”
Another farmer, Eze Patrick said they had made several efforts in the past to get attention of the state and federal government to the dam to no avail, explaining that unless government confronts challenges being faced by local rice farmers, the quest for reduction in imports will remain a mirage.