Self-sufficiency in rice production, still a long way

Despite the much-vaunted strides by the Federal Government towards attaining self-sufficiency in rice production in 2018, it appears the bulk of the so-called successes are on paper, rather than reality.

In fact, even states that made huge budgetary allocations to rice production early in the year, have little or nothing to show at this time of the year, when rice consumption usually tips the scale.
Rice is the most popular staple food in the country, and the world’s second popular crop after maize; hence it’s huge demand.

Annually, Nigerians consume around six million tons of rice, which can be produced locally, but the country is still far from achieving this due to the lip service consistently paid to the growth of the sector.
At least $5m is spent daily in the last few years on importation of rice from Thailand, among other rice producing countries, as disclosed by the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, recently in Abuja. 
The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, who recently claimed the country is inching closer to self-sufficiency in rice production, cited a report by a Thailand Rice Exporters Association, which he said revealed that within the span of two years – from September 2015 to September 2017 – the country’s rice importation dropped from 644, 131mt to just about 21,000mt.
“There is more good news to report: As a result of this administration’s success in local production, some investors from Thailand have shown interest in establishing rice milling plants in Nigeria, and this is sure to further boost rice production in Nigeria.
“The increased rice production has, in turn, led to the establishment of rice mills, including the 120, 000mt WACOT Mill in Kebbi, and the 1, 000, 000mt Dangote Rice Mill,” Mohammed said.
Ogbeh, who corroborated Mohammed’s claim, accused smugglers of sabotaging government’s effort, noting that companies importing rice into the country from Thailand have indicated interest to commence local production of the grain in the country, as a result of drop in volume of rice importation from the country.
Ogbeh said to close the rice-milling gap; the Federal Government has acquired 200 rice mills, some of which are quite small that they could mill only 10-20 tonnes daily, adding that some were still being expected.

Production figures exclusively obtained by The Guardian from the Office of Minister of Agriculture claimed that for 2016, 5.7 million mt of milled rice, which was 79.2 per cent of the total national consumption of 7.2 million metric tons was produced locally.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Minister on Media, Dr. Kayode Oyeleye, said a fierce battle is going on to restrict inflow of smuggled rice, which would not only artificially dampened the price of rice in the markets, but also put the local producers and processors in a quandary.   
The price of rice, according to him is expected to fall as the paddy harvested during the 2017 wet season is processed into milled rice. 
He noted that between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Central Bank on the latter’s anchor borrowers’ scheme, rice production has experienced a quantum leap, but the figures are expected to soon emanate.
However, data obtained from the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), indicates that Nigeria imported 2.330 million mt of rice in 2015 and 2016, which reduced to 2.310 million mt within the period of 2016 to 2017.
From the data, Nigeria’s domestic consumption of rice, stood at 5. 530 million metric tons between 2015 and 2017, while domestic supply stood at 3.850 million metric tons in 2015 to 2016.
The figure reduced to 3.620 million metric tons within the period of 2016 to 2017.
The data also forecast that the country’s rice importation would rise in 2018 from 2.310 million mt in 2017, to 2.830 million mt.
Sadly, a larger chunk of the country’s rice import are smuggled through the country’s porous land borders, which policing them have continued to challenge the nation’s security agencies
A professor of agriculture, Babagana Gambo, who doubles as lead consultant on agricultural matters to the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, disclosed in Abuja at a forum that Nigeria can bridge the gap between rice production and its consumption, through three ways: planting of rice in both wet and dry seasons; giving more lands for the production of rice; and non-importation of rice into the country.
He noted that self-sufficiency in rice production, among other food items, is one of the ways the Buhari-led administration has tried to lessen pressure on foreign exchange, by reducing importation, creating jobs and spurring diversified growth.
From the statistics he presented, the professor noted that virtually every state in the country can produce rice, but due to lack of will-power they have failed to do the needful.
According to Audu Ogbeh, there are 12.2m people growing rice in the country, and in Kano State alone, there are over 1, 000 rice mills, while there are large mills in Ebonyi, Enugu, Nassarawa, and Kebbi, among other states.
He, however, accused states of paying lip service to developing agriculture, as there are “states that cannot boast of a single working tractor for farmers.
“Is it because they don’t know that farmers need tractors or they want the President to compel them by law? It’s not their priority. We plead, write, lobby, only a few have responded, I believe the rest would join,” the former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party said adding: “Agriculture is gradually becoming a national movement, government does not own a farm and cannot run farms, this whole business belongs to the private sector and that was why in our Agricultural Promotion Policy, agriculture is totally private sector driven, all that government can do is to lay out policies and ensure that the private sector succeed when it gets involved in agric,” he stated.

Efforts had been made by previous administrations to attain self-sufficiency in rice production, but nothing came out of them. The most recent of these being the rice policy introduced by the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration in 2014.
The policy specified that owners of existing rice mills and new investors with verifiable backward integration in the rice value chain, would be allowed to import rice at 10 per cent duty, and 20 per cent levy (30 per cent); while merchants, who have nothing to contribute to local production in the form of rice farms or mills were to be charged 10 per cent duty and 60 per cent levy (70 per cent).
Technically, it was a waiver aimed at building local capacity in rice production. Subsequently, an inter-ministerial committee, which was headed by the then Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Akinwunmi Adeshina, was meant to work out the national rice supply gap and allocate import licenses with appropriate quotas, in order to bridge the gap, and at the same time, advancing the objectives of the national rice policy.
A total of 26 companies were involved in the deal, two of which were allegedly owned by a former Attorney General of the Federation and a former governor of Kebbi State respectively.
On paper, this committee was to determine beneficiaries and allocate quotas based on four key criteria that assess investment of individual companies into local rice production, but many of the beneficiaries were found to have no investment in the rice value chain. 

The abandonment of two multi-million naira rice processing plants, built by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), at Elele Alimini, in Rivers State, and Mbiabet-Ikpe, in Akwa Ibom State, is also representative of failed government efforts at boosting rice production.

among other such projects, has set the interventionist agency apart as a swirling cesspool of waste of public funds. The two abandoned rice processing plants, have a combined capacity of 210 metric tonnes per day.
But how have the states fared in 2017 after quite a number of them promised to flood the country with locally produced rice?
ON paper, some state governments have good plans for the massive production of rice this year, which they promised to actualise before the year ends. They made budgetary allocations to that effect. However, only few states have so far fulfilled the promise of providing local rice, especially for the Yuletide. 

The state, which is in its second year of successful collaboration with Kebbi State, which led to the birth of LAKE Rice, is already a trailblazer, among its counterparts across the country.

Ahead of the festive season, more trailer loads of the rice arrived the state from Kebbi, and have been distributed to designated sales centres, where they are to be sold at a very competitive rate.

Aside making the product available to citizens, to attain food sufficiency, its affordability has contributed to forcing down the price of foreign rice in the market, which were sold for as high as N20, 000 early this year. 

The State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Oluwatoyin Suarau, while reviewing report of sales of the rice said the produce always goes through different quality analysis assessment before being released to the market for consumption.
“Our LAKE Rice is of good quality. The difference between LAKE Rice and imported rice is just that the imported has a minimum storage of five to six years storage life span, but LAKE Rice is fresh.

“Food production and self-sufficiency have been given priority attention at the state’s policy and strategic levels, this is aimed at sustaining Lagos because our state is the largest consumer of food commodity in Nigeria,” he noted.
Suarau explained that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s directive on the non-stop sale of the product is part of the strategy aimed at increasing access to the product and ensuring effective distribution of the rice across the state.
He noted that a 32 metric tonne-per-hour rice milling plant, which will become operational next year has been acquired by the state government to ensure that Lagos meets up with the demand of LAKE Rice production.
 Suarau added that Lagos is also collaborating with Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, and Ondo States, to ensure that adequate paddy rice is supplied to the 32 metric tonnes per hour rice mill.

The N14b Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers’ Rice Programme, flagged off by President Muhammad Buhari on December 15, 2015 in Kebbi State, has led to massive production of rice, because of its impact in reducing cost of production.    
A rough estimate of what The Guardian observed during a visit to some rice farm markets, indicated that between WACOT, and Labanan Rice Mills, more than one million metric tonnes of rice have so far been produced this year. 
This was confirmed by acting Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Alhaji Lawal Mohammed Shehu, on a visit to Labana Rice Mill, where he noted that this year, Kebbi State has produced over 1.1million mt of rice, while using 7.5kg paddy rice.

He said the variety of rice that was used this year is Faro, which is the local variety.
Shehu said the state was able to achieve the feat due to two rice milling machines it acquired, which have positioned the state high among rice producing states in the country.
For now, a 50kg bag of local rice is sold for between N8, 000 and N9, 000 in the market, as against N16, 000 for same size this time last year. Due to the difference in prices, compared to the foreign rice presently sold for between N13, 000 and N14,000, the local rice is enjoying more patronage, coupled with its nutrition advantage.

Ogun State government is the new entrant into the league of rice producing states. The state is known for its Ofada Rice specie, which comes highly recommended because of its nutritious value. Before now, only individuals and corporate farmers were involved in rice cultivation in the state.

To encourage the restoration of culture and heritage of its people, the state is leaving no stone unturned in promoting and improving the production of Ofada, which has become the state’s brand. It has also promoted the cultivation of varieties such as Nerica 8 and Faro, which are short and long grain rice respectively, to further boost the “eating what we grow” of the Federal Government is sustained.

The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Mrs. Peju Adebajo, said through the state direct intervention and the various development partners, such as the World Bank through FADAMA and IFAD-VCDP, has recorded a leap in the quantum of rice it is producing.

She noted that through the various interventions, over N4.0b has been invested from the public sector, noting that the catalytic effort had assisted smallholder farmers in the private sector to increase their investment in the last three years with 2017 being very significant.

While noting that the patronage is high because the people have showed a lot of enthusiasm, she said the move couldn’t be farfetched in the sense that the MITROS Rice (as it is christened) has guaranteed quantity traceability and market for the teeming smallholder producers.

“Prior to this period, there was not much rice processing mills in the state. Farmers had to travel long distances to access the few old equipment, which hinders quality. The establishment of processing mills, with at least one in each senatorial district, will ensure easy access by farmers; ensure quality assurance and traceability of products.

“In addition, the technology installed at the processing mills is cottage, which can be easily managed and maintained by smallholder farmers/processors. Moreover, the products that will emanate from the mills are of high quality and will meet Ogun standard.”

Despite allocating N5.4b to agriculture in 2017, to boost rice and cassava production, a 500 per cent increase, compared to that of 2016, Anambra State appears to be at effort level. 
The state, with 300mt for its annual consumption requirement, claims it has made lots of investments in rice production across the state, to produce surplus for food, and provide employment. One of such is collaboration with individuals, and international investors.
It recently commissioned the JOSAN Integrated Rice Farms and Mills, located at Enugwuabo, Ufuma in Orumba North Local Council, which is expected to add 90 metric tonnes to the existing 250 metric tonnes currently produced in the state. 
Governor Willie Obiano, said his administration has made great impact within three years, revealing that the total production of rice when he assumed office was 80mt, which has hit 250 metric tones today, adding that with JOSAN’s production of 90mt, the state’s annual consumption requirement would be surpassed by 40mt before the year runs out.
Chairman of Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection (ANSIPPA), Igwe Enweze of Umuoji, said with the state’s share of 10 per cent in the project, and investors’ 90 per cent, while three per cent of the profit goes to host community for corporate social responsibility, the project has already created 130 direct and 410 indirect jobs, while 7, 000 direct and 10, 000 indirect jobs would be available when operating in full capacity. 
A government source said, Anambra Rice is now in circulation in Awka Market, Onitsha, Aba, Abakaliki and Uyo, selling at N17, 000 per bag
In terms of patronage, Madam Grace Ahalianya, a trader at Eke Awka Main Market, who deals on Anambra Rice, said the demand is encouraging, and it has helped families, especially civil servants, who benefit from government largesse. She, however, argued that the price of N17, 500 was still on the high side.

It is a different scenario in Kaduna State, as little or nothing is done in the area of rice cultivation.
Smallholder farmers in the state revealed that neither the state, nor the Federal Government has invested in the local production of rice. Rather, it’s the farmers, who have all along been responsible for production and cultivation of rice in Kaduna.
They argued that despite having an array of land and resources to feed almost the whole of Nigeria, Kaduna State government has not been judiciously making use of it.

A rice farmer in the state, Abdulrahman Musa, said individual farmers have been responsible for making local rice available in the state without any assistance from government. 
Musa, who doubles as the state Coordinator of Fehdon Seed Organisation, said “Kaduna State Government has failed to own up to its responsibilities by subsidising agricultural inputs.”
He said this year, Fehdon Seeds Organisation has been able to produce 43 tons of rice through individual efforts. “The local rice you have been seeing in the market was cultivated by smallholder farmers and not the government. Not even the distribution of fertiliser was made to the farmers by the government. The government at various levels has failed to own up its responsibilities.
“Even the entire northern region has no standard grain processing plant, despite the recognition given to it as an agriculture- based region,” he concluded.

When contacted, the Public Relations Officer, ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Dahiru Abdu confirmed to The Guardian that the state has not invested in rice production, but has been intervening in agriculture in the state, through the supply of fertiliser to farmers at subsidised rate. 
Meanwhile, the price of local rice in Kaduna has increased tremendously. At the Chechenia market, The Guardian observed that a bushel of local rice cultivated in Kaduna, prominently know as ‘Jamila rice’ has increased from N400 to N550, while a big sack, normally sold for N30, 000 has increased to N35, 000.
A retailer in the market, Musa Ibrahim linked the increase to continuous demand of the local rice over foreign type, especially at Christmas.

Efforts of the Delta State Government in the area of rice production in 2017 were wasted due to natural disaster. The state recorded a loss of over 1,044 mt expected rice yield from 261 hectares of farmland estimated at N18om to flooding.
The breakdown indicates that 162 hectares of rice under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme, 25 hectares under the state supported rice programme, and 74 hectares under the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurial Programme, were lost to the flood menace.
Expectedly, frontline rice farmer and producer of Unity Rice in the state, Mr. Raymos Guanah, who confirmed this to The Guardian, blamed the loss on late forecast by the Nigeria Metrological Agency (NIMET), adding that the expected yield was pegged at a minimum of four metric tons per hectare with the total yield at 1,044 metric tons.
Guanah, a former commissioner, however, described the loss as immense and unfortunate, stating that all the rice farms in the state were submerged by flood.
He said: “True to type, the NIMET forecast came to pass, all the rice farms in Delta State have been submerged by flood, my only worry is that NIMET didn’t give us the prediction as early as January or February.
“The prediction came about three months to the flooding, and my position is that if NIMET had given us early warnings, we may not have gone into cultivation, or do those quick maturing crops, but here we are, our rice farms are completely gone, it is very unfortunate situation.”
It was gathered that the value of the loss was approximately N180m at the sale rate of N170, 000 per mt. The incident has dealt hard blows on the state’s rice production efforts.
Noting that a letter had been forwarded to the National Agricultural Insurance Company (NAIC), and the state government, Guanah expressed hope that the affected farmlands would be assisted by way of providing necessary incentives to assist them.

The State Commissioner for Agriculture, Austine Chikezie, said government was committed to ensuring adequate production of rice for Deltans before the year runs out.
Speaking with The Guardian, Mr. Emeka Okolie, a local rice farmer in Asaba, whose farm was spared the flood disastersaid, “I went into rice farming instead of waiting for a white-collar job. Since then, I have been producing not less than 20,000 bags of rice, but the labour is very difficult. So, we want the state/federal governments to always assist us.”
Elder Francis Tolafe, another rice farmer in Asaba, said: “What I get from my farms at present will take care of all I want to survive till I die, rice farming is difficult but the harvest is good.”
Chiekezie said the state had acquired vast hectres of land in Ogwashi-Uku Obior communities, where rice farming would be enhanced. 
He said: “The state government is totally committed to rice production, and has committed sums of money to it, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to assist the farmers, with over N460m spent on rice cultivation this year, and we are expecting harvest soon with over 60, 000 mt, and they would be on sale at low prices as subsidised by the state government. We expect large patronage.”

The several paper policies announced by the Adamawa State Governor, Mohammed Jibrilla Bindow on rice production have been of no consequence, as there are no signs on ground for dry season farming, or commencement of rice production in the state
A seasoned rice farmer, Alhaji Abdullahi Maikano Tafida, told The Guardian in Yola, that the state’s rice farming programme has not received serious attention from the government. He lamented that since the programme was flagged off last year by Governor Bindow, there is no sign on ground to prove that the scheme is still alive. 
“As a seasoned farmer, especially rice, I feel ashamed that majority of our state governors are not taking food production seriously, since our governor in Adamawa flagged off this scheme up till now, there is no practical sign that this programme will become a reality in the state.
“For this year, it is already late to start dry season farming in Adamawa, there are no chemicals distributed to dry season rice farmers to clear the bushes, if you spray the chemicals for clearing the bushes it takes you two weeks to start working on the land. There are no seeds distributed to farmers for seeds broadcasting and this process takes one month; that means February is already finished. It takes 45 days for rice to mature for transplanting, that means in April. Rain starts in Adamawa in May and you must wait for another 60 days for you to start applying fertilisers, which is not even available to dry season farmers in the state,” Tafida said.
He noted that the implication of the governor’s lack of concern is that people of the state may face famine, as being predicted by reputable international organisations like United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Tafida said despite the fact that the governor sacked the former leadership of the Anchor Borrowers Scheme in the state because of poor performance and appointed a new leadership headed by the Secretary to the state government, Alhaji Bindir Umar, the step has not changed the situation positively. 
“When Bindir took over we expected him to maintain those contractors that were accredited to supply farm inputs, but he sacked them and started a new process that we don’t know when the rice scheme will take off in the state. The truth of the matter is that this government needs serious minded farmers and not air conditioner farmers to head farmers programmes. It is a shame that with all the rivers and rich land that we have in this country, government cannot provide a conducive environment for farmers to feed the country.” 
“Since 1980 when the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, started irrigation farming in Yola-North Local Council, no other government has done anything spectacular to improve on that project, and that scheme is the best for this country, but today our leaders have allowed it to rot away. To be sincere our leaders are yet to show commitment to agriculture,” he stated. 
The Guardian investigation revealed that cattle breeders have also constituted a major problem to rice production efforts in the state due to absence of law proscribing anti-open grazing and ranching in the state. Majority of rice farmers have abandoned their farms, as herdsmen continue to destroy them without compensation from government.

State chairman, rice farmers, Mr. Daware Comsina, was not available for comments.

Imo State government said it has produced 12,000 bags of “Imo Rice.” This was launched, last Friday, December 22, by the state governor, Rochas Okorocha.
The Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, Mrs. Ugochi Nnanna-Okoro, who disclosed this to The Guardian in Owerri, listed 12 local councils-Okigwe, Onuimo, Ideato North, Ngor Opkala, Ohaji/ Egbema, Oguta, Orlu, Nwangele, Aboh Mbaise, Ihitte Uboma, Ehime Mbano and Owerri North, as the source of the rice. 
She, however, expressed regrets that herdsmen in Owerri North local council, disrupted the production of rice in various parts of the council.

According to her, production activities, which had been going on in the last one year, were made possible due to collaborative work between the state government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), via the Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme and supporting resources from the state government.
The commissioner disclosed that in line with agreement, the state and CBN had an understanding with the off-takers and the farmers, to ensure that farmers are not cheated, as the product is transported to the mills.
As at the time of filing this report, the commissioner was yet to respond to the question on the amount disbursed and number of farmers from the state, who have accessed the funds.
While Nnanna- Okoro also assured that the quality of Imo Rice was of international standard,  Godwin Igwe, a farmer, regretted he was not availed the opportunity to access loan for rice production. 
The 2017 harvest season in Ebonyi State witnessed high yields, as against what was witnessed in 2016. Farmers attributed this to government policies on agriculture, as many of them got assistance to improve their productivity.

To diversify the economy, the state government launched a one-man, one-hectare scheme with the target of capturing 80, 000, 00 farmers. It also secured a N2b Central Bank of Nigeria Anchor Borrowers Scheme support, which was given to farmers and those desirous of going into farming.

A farmer Mr. Chukwu Ude said that government’s policy on rice production has helped them immensely, stressing that this year farming season was favourable to Ebonyi rice farmers.

Moreover as majority of the people are complaining about recession, rice farmers and rice dealers in the state are celebrating the recession following the high demand for rice.

Due to the demand for rice in the state many have gone into its production and processing. The three giant rice processing mills located in each of the three senatorial zones, aside local mills scattered throughout the state, make for the availability of the product.

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