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CBN facilitates over 58 new rice mills as farmers, others list challenges

By Femi Ibirogba
24 February 2022   |   4:07 am
No fewer than additional 58 integrated rice mills have been facilitated through various initiatives of the Federal Government in the last seven years, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has disclosed.

A rice mill in Nigeria

• Mills increased from 10 to 68 between 2015 and 2021, CBN
• ‘Insecurity impedes progress, say millers, farmers

No fewer than additional 58 integrated rice mills have been facilitated through various initiatives of the Federal Government in the last seven years, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has disclosed.

The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, recently pointed out that rice mills in Nigeria were fewer than 10 in 2015, with a combined capacity of fewer than 350,000 metric tonnes yearly.

But as of January 2022, there were over 68 integrated mills spread across the country with a combined capacity of three million metric tonnes.

Emefiele had explained that the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), which was introduced in 2015, had a catalyst effects on rice cultivation, processing and other value chain activities, saying about 10 more integrated mills would be opened this year.

“Food security remains a cardinal deliverable for every developing economy as it serves as the fulcrum of many other economic development indices,” he said.

Also, the apex bank has assured rice millers of collaboration to boost the rice value chain in Nigeria.

The governor called on integrated millers in the country to also invest in cultivation rice paddies to complement smallholders’ production and boost availability of raw materials for their mills while driving the policy of the country to be self-sufficient in rice production.

He disclosed this recently in Kano while unveiling Gerewa Rice Mill, an integrated 420-metric-tonne per day rice mill.

He urged mill operators to get involved in paddy cultivation as part of their backward integration plans and cooperation with the Nigerian Rice Farmers Association (RIFAN) for sustainability.

“The private sector-led Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme provides long-term financing options to millers to finance commercial farms, land development, irrigation facilities; and other agricultural infrastructure that will enhance the production plan,” Emefiele had said.

He said that the quality of milled Nigerian rice was comparable to that of rice produced elsewhere in the world.

Head, Farming Initiatives, Olam Nigeria, Mr Reji George, who led the establishment of Olam’s fully integrated, Africa’s largest mechanised commercial farm and milling facility at Rukubi, in Nasarawa State and its massive out-grower scheme), said Nigeria’s rice sector had made significant strides in respect of increased productivity and production volumes of small-holder farmers, thereby increasing the profitability of rice growing, and processors were getting sustainable volumes of high-quality paddies for their mills.

Sustainable paddies, to him, is a great factor to consider before establishing a rice mill, indicating that springing up of more mills was due to available and potential great volume of paddies.

“And consumers can now access excellent quality rice produced from the world-class milling facilities coming up in the past few years. This turnaround can be attributed mainly to the consistency in the rice policy and its proper implementation, by the Federal Government of Nigeria,” George said.

A rice miller and Managing Director, Vertex Rice, Lokoja, Kogi State, Afis Oladejo, explained to The Guardian that the policies of the government on local rice production, processing and consumption, to a great extent, had triggered establishment of new and upgrade of existing rice mills and local rice consumption.

“But insecurity on farms around rice-producing belts,” he added, “has led to scarcity and high price of paddies. Insecurity is not only a threat to life but also to food security. It is affecting rice farmers, millers and consumers by driving price of rice up.”

Oladejo called on the armed forces and the police to work harder on internal security of life and property to enhance farmers’ productivity and complements various agro-economic policies of the government.

Also, the chairman, Bukan Sidi-Lafia Rice Innovation Platform (IP), Nasarawa State and National President, Association of Small-Scale Agro Producers in Nigeria (ASSAPIN), Joshua Jonathan, said policies, ranging from limited forex for food imports, closure of some land borders to supporting smallholder farmers, had improved rice productivity in terms of quantity, quality and increased consumption of locally produced rice in Nigeria.

He said: “Before now, our scale of production is small – between 1.5 and 2.0 metric tonnes per hectare, but now, Nigerian farmers’ production average yield is between 4.0 -6.0Mt/ha with improved seeds, new production practices, CBN’s anchor borrowers’ support scheme, other initiatives like off-takers’ arrangements, availability of farmer-friendly small-scale improved technologies, especially in pre and post-harvest handling areas have improved greatly the country’s parboiled milled rice.” 

He added that importation restriction had helped Nigerians to see the need to invest in agriculture, particularly in the rice sub-sector (large farms, more and bigger processing mills being opened around the country), saying: “this has greatly improved our production capacity and also boosted Nigerians’ desire for home-made rice. In terms rice production, Nigeria is on track.”

He, however, said more have to be done in the area of extension service delivery to farmers to sustain the gains.

Jonathan said: “There are inadequate extension workers to push the new innovations and technologies to smallholder farmers. Small-holder farmers are producing 70 to 80 per cent of present Nigeria’s rice. They need more support to continue to produce at the economic levels.

“Therefore, the government needs to invest more in the sector by making more budgetary allocations to the rice sub-sector to enable farmers to reduce production cost.”