Mudi: Locally produced rice now hotcake in Kano
The drive towards self-sufficiency in rice production by the Federal Government has recorded some successes, especially the bold step taken to close the borders, and concentrating on our local farmers. That alone has boosted the morale of our local producers of rice.
It is the outcome of this that has given them the fillip to redouble their efforts by producing beyond what they were producing before the eventful commencement of the policy. Now, rice production has risen from 4.1 million mt at the national level, to about 11million mt. By whatever standard, this is a great improvement.
This did not happen just like that, there is this Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor-Borrowers Scheme that has boosted rice and wheat productions. The scheme was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari, in September 2015 in Kebbi State. This was a momentous development in local rice production in our country, and a big leap for rice farmers.
You by now understand that most of our farmers transited from subsistence farming to commercial farming, and they are doing very fine. This transition, it must be stressed, made tremendous impact on rice production, which will largely help in achieving self-sufficiency in rice production in Kano State and country in general.
How has Kano’s large investment in rice production turned out this year?
Rice harvest this year has been very good for us; we only encountered a little problem caused by the scarcity of water during the dry season rice production. That was when the Hadejia-Jama’are River Basin closed the irrigation water for the farmers. This development had a devastating effect on our farmers, and caused serious and monumental damages to our farmers.
But that notwithstanding, in other areas we had a bumper harvest, that much I can say. Farmers are generally happy about the good period we experienced during the harvest.
At the state level, we produced about 900, 000mt last year, and for this year, we produced 1.5million mt.
How is the patronage of our local rice compared to foreign rice?
I can tell you for sure that the patronage that local rice enjoys in Kano State is fantastic, so also across the country. That also is a serious source of encouragement to our local rice farmers, that is, the fact that our rice is accepted by our people.
However, I can even tell you that criminality is beginning to come into rice business. For instance, most of these rice that are called foreign rice are rice produced in Nigeria. Some people are re-packaging our local rice and disguising it to be foreign rice, when in actual fact they are locally produced rice.
For your information also, Nigerian rice is very fresh because we consume it immediately after harvesting. What Nigerians are getting from local rice is fresh and aromatic product.
But the foreign rice they are bringing in here were produced and stored for between three to five years. That on its own shows that it is not fresh rice that is being brought in, but now that many people have tasted Nigerian rice, they are now going for it.
What is actually happening now is that in the country, you can’t store our local rice because the buyers are already there waiting for your product. And you know we have millers that mill local rice to approved international standards. When you see Nigerian rice, you can compare it with any other rice that comes from outside the country.
Nigerian rice is now very competitive, and like I said, many people are going for it than in the past, that is, before this Federal Government policy on self-sufficiency in food production.
With this policy of economic diversification, our local farmers are being encouraged.
What needs to be done to improve rice production in the country?
The Federal Government needs to make available more support for rice farmers, just as it needs to provide an enabling environment for rice production. Let me again point out that closing our borders against importation of rice really encouraged us.
Having said that, government needs to look at the mechanisation aspect of rice farming, so that the production cost can be driven down and the produce made cheaper than it is now. Right now, the process that we are using is very expensive. But things can change for the better if government can intervene through mechanisation. I am sure things will be better and easy afterwards because when the product is cheaper it can compete with all other commodities that are coming from outside.
What led the price of our local rice to soar is nothing more than the high cost of production. That is why we are calling for such interventions from government and other partners.
What relationship exists between rice farmers and rice millers in the state?
The relationship is very cordial, even though they are in great numbers, which is part of the reasons why our produce sail through without delay.
We don’t really have rice that can be dumped at the market because our rice are precessed whenever we harvest. This shows that the high number of millers is important and useful to us.
But apart from that, rice millers don’t assist farmers in any other way. Unlike wheat millers, flour companies for example, help wheat farmers with implements so that they can have a good farming season. But rice millers are lagging behind and we are not seeing or getting such assistance.
If you look at it critically, you will understand that the Federal Government, through the CBN, helps millers in their businesses. So, we are thinking that millers should do the same to farmers. When government gives support to farmers through Millers, it automatically means the assistance is solely for the millers.
Some people are of the view that government should bring back marketing board for the rice sector. How relevant is this?
I think this issue of marketing boards may not work because of our thinking, that such boards may not be feasible. That is the reason we came up with the Warehousing Finance Receipt System, to cater for farmers, who do not want to sell their produce immediately after harvest.
It is through this system that a farmer can leave his produce until he is ready to sell them. When this happens, his rice becomes collateral for him to get credit commensurate to his product, and when the price of the produce appreciates, he can then sell them off.
So, keeping their produce help the farmers obtain credits that are commensurate to their products.
What we came to realise in the whole issue of marketing board is that some vested interests may not allow it to work the way it should. So, even if you come back with such boards, it will not work well, or will not be in the best interest of our people. To tell you the truth, it is near impossible to think that such boards can bounce back because it seems nobody would even be serious about it.
Sometimes some people don’t even want us to mention it when we attend events that have to do with such things. In fact, nobody will even take you serious these days if you begin to call for the restoration of marketing boards.
With the warehousing system in place in Kano, the state government has approved the sum of N1 billion for this our new scheme, but a dime has not been released yet.
When are we expecting to commence exportation of rice since production has recently improved?
You know we have just started recording significant improvement in the production figures, in other words, we have just started producing at commercial level. That notwithstanding, we are expecting that by June 2018, that is during the next dry season farming, we should be able to do something serious, especially now that we are having many stakeholders coming up to us for one form of collaboration or the other.
Like foreign development partners, they now believe that our country is serious with improving the agriculture sector. We now have partnership with organisations like Sasakawa Global.
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