Local rice production: Stakeholders demand better policies
In the face of soaring price of imported rice, experts are advocating urgent import substitution programme, introduction of stringent restrictions on rice importation and encouraging of more private sector participation, to inspire local farmers.
Record shows that Nigeria is the largest importer of rice in the world today, despite favourable production climate. The country also has one of the richest soil types to grow and become self-sufficient, and exports rice. But it has over the years relied on importation, which has led to increase in the price of the staple food.
For instance, a bag of rice, which sold for N8, 000 – N10, 000 in 2015, now sells between N18, 000 – N20, 000. Prof. Wilfred Ifeanyi Okonkwo of the Department of Agricultural and Bioresources Engineering, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, said as the country’s population expands, demand for rice is projected to rise from 5m metric tonnes to 36m metric tonnes by 2050, noting that what government needs now is urgent import substitution programme for rice, else Nigeria will spend about $150b importing rice by 2050.
“To encourage our local rice farmers’, stringent restrictions should be imposed on rice importation in Nigeria. When this is done, Nigeria has no business importing over 10-15-year old rice from India and Thailand, which are dumped in our markets as import. To grow our rice market beyond the present level more private sector participation is a must.
“Government should encourage the building and acquisition of integrated rice mills and commercial rice production to meet with international quality grade milled rice. Efforts of some companies like Miva and Ashi rice in Benue State, Ebonyi rice, Umza rice in Kano and Dominion Farm and others should be supported to boost rice production in Nigeria,” he stated.
While noting that the steps, if taken would ensure rapid reformation of agricultural value chain, he advised that agriculture must be treated as a business, not as development programme, adding that the development of agricultural value chain is imperative.
To the Chairman, All Farmer’s Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Ogun State Chapter, Segun Dasaolu, government needs to assist farmers in the areas of land clearing, provision of inputs and encouragement on irrigation, so that planting of rice will be all season.
“In the south, there is need for land clearing for farmers, when you clear the land, give them inputs and encourage irrigation, so that during dry season they can cultivate rice all season. Irrigation should be encouraged in all the possible areas, as doing that will assist local farmers to go into large scale farming, instead of planting on small of expanse of land,” he said.
Ogun State Commissioner of Agric, Ronke Sokenu, told The Guardian that government should as soon as possible accommodate young farmers to close the gap of rice production, to attain its food sufficiency plan. She added that there is need to also give farmers the needed support, in terms of provision of inputs and other supports, along the value chain
She however, noted that government has not failed in its policies and master plan of ensuring availability of rice soon, saying government is working with Jigawa, Taraba, Kwara and other states to increase the number of farmers that are working.
“The programme launched last Monday, one of the key crops government plans to focus on is rice across the country. That is why they are setting up dams across the 36 states. The dams will support rice and other agricultural products, so that we can have rice year-round, to have ample supply across the federation. There is a variety of rice in Ibadan now at the rate of N8, 000 per bag brought from Jigawa and Taraba, in Ogun State, government is also following suit,” she stated.