Nigeria rises to its rice potential

After the night they say comes the dawn, agriculture in Nigeria has lived in the shadows of the monstrous oil sector since the discovery of oil in the country. Nevertheless, the dawn is here for the Nigerian Agriculture sector as its rice revolution intensifies and rice market indicates economic potentials in years to come.

With all these in mind, the goal is to ensure the increase of agricultural produce, especially rice production, and turn into a major rice exporter. The Country’s Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has commissioned the N10 Billion WACOT Rice Processing Mill with a production capacity of 100,000 tonnes annually; silos for storing 18,000 tonnes of paddy and a warehouse for storing additional 12,000 tonnes of paddy.

When operational, it is expected to generate direct and indirect employment for 3,500 people, as well as paddy procurement reach to 50,000 farmers. This mill underscores the policies of the Nigerian Government, that it is the private sector that must be the engine of development.

Rice is an increasingly important crop in Nigeria, grown for sale and consumption, rendering satisfaction to bellies and purses of the growing population. With an estimated amount of N356 billion spent on importation of rice annually, it is an irony that Nigeria is currently largest producer of rice in West Africa and the second largest importer of rice in the world.

It was revealed in the first half of the year by the President of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, that “annual rice production in Nigeria has increased from 5.5 million tonnes in 2015 to 5.8 million tonnes in 2017”. This progressive increase is as a result of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) which was launched in 2015, the programme is aimed at creating economic linkages between over 600,000 smallholder farmers and reputable large-scale processors, making the vision of ‘ease of doing business’ for private sectors in the country possible.

While also increasing agricultural output and improve capacity utilization of integrated mills, with 12 million rice producers aiming to benefit from the ADP and 4 million hectares of FADAMA rice land available in the country, it is safe to say the initiative can close the gap between the level of local rice production and domestic consumption.

The WACOT Rice Mill, which is reportedly the largest parboiled rice mill in Africa, is also the first rice plant in Nigeria with captive power co-generation facility. It will generate electricity from rice husks, thereby ensuring that all by-products and waste products are fully consumed and the environment is protected. Professor Osinbajo said the mill emphasizes one of the policies of the Nigerian Government, that it is the private sector that must be the engine of development.

By owning a mill with the capacity to produce world class rice that could be compared with those produced in Thailand and India, Nigeria can expand its economy by exporting rice to other African countries like, Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania and other neighboring countries.

With a prospect of competing in the global market, it is therefore paramount that the Nigerian Government does everything possible to fully unlock the potential of agriculture in the country. Agriculture produce exportation is not only a huge revenue earner but also a vehicle to achieving macro-economic and fiscal stability in nations. Adding to it is the ability to drive down inflation, create lot of jobs and promote rural transformation.

The present rice consumption rate is now said to be at a staggering 7.9 million tonnes and production rate has increased to 5.8 tonnes per annum, hence the need to expand its rice production capacity.

Records show that, N33.34 billion had been invested by the government through 12 participating finance institutions in respect of 146,557 farmers across 21 cultivating states with over 180,018 hectares of land, and the acquiring of a N3 billion loan by Cross Rivers state, to establish a rice mill. The prospect looks good as many farmers are beginning to buy into the ABP initiative.

There is without doubt that, the country can fully unlock its great potential of agriculture with the willingness and determination of the present administration to empower farmers, ensure policy continuity, and improve of production-oriented initiatives; it is only a matter of time before the sun never goes to bed in the agricultural sector of the country.