3 Ways To Make Lots Of Money From The Multi-billion Naira Rice Industry


“By the time you go to sleep tonight, we would have spent one billion naira importing rice. Don’t we have rice on this land? This kind of expenditure pattern cannot be sustained by Nigerians. We are eating beyond our means.”

The above statement made by the Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina, should serve as an eye opener to any one in Nigeria who is yet to understand the huge potential and opportunity in rice cultivation and processing in Nigeria.

With a population of about 160 million people and an estimated population growth rate of 5.7 percent per annum, Nigeria has a large market for rice production.

Obviously, local production cannot meet Nigeria’s large demand for rice and that is the reason the country spends the massive amounts Adesina mentioned to import the commodity.

Specifically, the Federal Office of Statistics estimates that Nigerians consume around 5.5 million tons of rice annually, out of which about 3.6 million tons is produced locally, mostly by subsistence farmers. The balance of 1.9 million tons is imported.

This large size of the rice market in Nigeria as well as the high duties and costs associated with importing the commodity, makes local production a fundamentally attractive industry.

This report x-rays Nigeria’s rice industry, exposing three ways you can make lots of money from it.

1. As A Rice Farmer

3 Ways To Make Lots Of Money From The Multi-billion Naira Rice Industry
3 Ways To Make Lots Of Money From The Multi-billion Naira Rice Industry

You can make lots of money cultivating rice. There are different varieties of rice you can choose to cultivate.
Types of rice in Nigeria

Abakaliki Rice: Research has shown that Abakaliki – the capital city of Ebonyi state – has a soil that produces one of the best local rice in Nigeria. The rice is very rich in protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, etc. Adesina once pointed out that Abakiliki rice is the best rice in the world as the taste and quality is far better than the one from China.

Ofada Rice: Ofada is a small town in Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State. But Ofada rice is a generic name used to describe all rice species produced and processed in the rice producing cluster of South-Western Nigeria. The rice – a special delicacy for many Nigerians – is also rich in essential food nutrients.

Baro Rice: Baro is an ancient town in Niger State owned by the Nupe – a very popular ethnic group in the North Central region of Northern Nigeria. They are known for their agricultural might in the production of rice, yam, cassava and animal husbandry. They have a very fertile clay-loamy soil and huge hectares of uncultivated agricultural land for rice cultivation.

Markurdi Rice: Markurdi is the capital city of Benue – a state regarded as the food basket of Nigeria. They also have fertile soil and vast lands for agricultural cultivation of food plants like rice, yam, cassava, etc.

Rice Cultivation/Production

Why cultivate rice?

A passionate rice farmer, Chief Ibrahim Iroko, Agbeloba of Badagry Kingdom, is also the Chairman, Farmers’ Association, Ikoga, Badagry. He says he chose rice farming alongside other types of farming because of its profitability and because rice is a staple food welcomed in every home. “There is no way you will plant rice and there won’t be market for it despite the difficulty in its production”, he says.

Steps In Rice Production

Land Preparation: Iroko says, “You can’t just jump into rice farming particularly, even if you are born into it. Before going into rice farming, you need to get your land prepared; after this, you do what is called business plan and you need to know the number of hectares of land you want to plant.

If it is one hectare, how much will you need for the two ploughing times? Then you need to know how many kilos of seeds you need for planting one hectare.

On the mechanical aspect of rice farming, you need to know how much the planter can take. You need to make these calculations before you start planting, so as to know how much will be spent on one hectare.

“The fields cannot be ploughed until after the first rain, generally in May or June. During the oil boom many farmers had access to tractors, but most now undertake all land preparation and harvesting by hand.

Generally, tasks are allocated along gender lines, but in some areas men and women work together. Women are typically responsible for the transplanting of seedlings to the fields and threshing, whilst it is often the men who hoe”.

Information from the Lagos State Commercial Agricultural Development Project [CADP] under the Rice for Job programme initiative of Governor Babatunde Fashola agrees with Iroko that thorough land preparation is a pre-requisite for any profitable rice growing venture.

The CADP information offers the following advice to rice farmers:

Plough before the rains to expose roots of perennial weeds for desiccation.

For direct seeded rice, harrow the field just before the first rain and seed.

For transplanting rice, use a rotavator a day before transplanting.

With hoe method, build heaps or mounds before the rains to expose roots of weeds. Puddle when Dooding starts (just before transplanting) by breaking and spreading the heaps and mounds.

Construct bunds around the field to accumulate water.

Plant into clean field in which all germinated weeds have been buried during paddling.

Apart from land preparation, the CADP information listed the following as steps necessary in rice production or rice field establishment and management:

Fertilizer application

Plant protection and

Safety issues

Seeding/Transplanting: Rice farmers can seed directly or sow in the nursery.

Direct Seeding:

Divide the field into plots measuring 50 or 100m2- and construct small bunds.

Apply herbicides to control weeds.

In dibbling, the spacing should be 20-25cm between rows and 15-20cm between plants.

Sowing In The Nursery:

Site nursery beds near the cultivation area.

Plough the land to a fine texture and construct beds 1.2 meters  wide or any convenient length.

  • Raise the beds to control/regulate water level.
  • “If necessary”, apply 10gm of NPK fertilizer per m2
  • Keep beds weed free and moist hut not flooded.
  • Select healthy viable seeds.
  • Sow seeds by planting in rows.

Wooding planting frame can be used to sow seed in drills, 10cm apart (approximately the length of the longest finger) and cover with soil. Sow thinly and cover with grass mulch to prevent birds from eating them, because well-spaced seedbed encourages rapid growth or seedling.

Irrigate or water regularly for the first week maintaining 1-2cm. Thereafter, irrigate the seedbed gradually to a depth of 5cm, this assists in weed control.

Protect seedling from soil-born insect by use or Lambdacy halothrin or Cypermethrin (Insecticide) at I liter/ha

Transplant seedling at 4-5 leave stage (i.e. at 3-4 weeks after planting in the nursery).


You can use one hectare of rice nursery to plant 10 hectares of rice (field). After 21-28 days, uproot seedlings gently and transplant in rows at 2-3 seedlings/hill.

READ MORE: How to process rice

The spacing should be 20cm between rows and 20cm between plants. (20cm is approximately the distance between the tip of the thumb and that of the longest finger when spread wide apart).

Note: Flood the field to a depth of 5cm (i.e., about the length of smallest finger) up to five days after transplanting and thereafter, raise the water level to 10-15cm. Drain the field, two weeks prior to harvest to harden the grain (field are also drained for fertilizer application}.

Fertilizer application

Lowland Rice: Basal application (First application): Apply four bags of NPK 20-10-10 at 224 weeks after transplanting – about the tilling stage.
Top dressing (Second application): Apply two bags of Urea/ha with two splits at 4 weeks and 6 weeks transplanting.

Upland Rice

Basal application (First application): Apply four bags of NPK 20-10-10 at one ( 1 ) week after germination. Top dressing (Second application): Apply two bags of Urea six (6) weeks later.

Note: 1. The fertilizer should be applied between rows. 2. Foliar fertilizer mix can be applied as recommended b) the manufacturers

Plant Protection And Safety Issues

Weed control:

Yields from rice can be seriously reduced by competition from weeds during the early growth stages. Weeds are a considerable problem in direct-seeded rice fields because there the weed and rice germinate at the same time and there is no standing water to inhibit weed growth.

In transplanting rice, weeds are less a problem as they are controlled during puddling. The standing water in the field during the growing season helps to eliminate many weeds species.

READ MORE: How to raise more rice pyramids

To obtain good yield of rice, weeds must be controlled in time. They can be controlled either by cultural and chemical methods or both (Integrated method).

Cultural Method: Two-hand or hoe weeding at 2-3 weeks and 5-6 weeks after sowing or transplanting will be adequate.

Chemical Method: In the rice field weeds can be controlled with any of the foIIowing herbicides: Propanil + bentazon, Propanil + 2, 4-0 and Propanil + thiobencard at 3kg a.i./ha.

Integrated method: Application of chemical and hoe weed at 5-6 weeks after planting.

Pest And Diseases Control:


Termites: Destroy all dead woods and plant residues by burning. Locate the temitarium in surrounding bush and destroy. Also spay an insecticide.

Armyworms: They damage the leaves, sometimes so severely that only the leal’ veins are left. The use of Chemical control method will be suitable for this. (i.e. Vetox 85, carbaryl, cypermethrin or lamdacyhalothrin at lliter /ha) are effective against armyworms.

Stem Borers: Watch the rice closely for dead hearts during the first 3 weeks after sowing or transplanting. If stem borers damages are noticed, use a systemic insecticide that is in granular form (i.e., Carbonfuran). Culturally, stem borers can be controlled by burning all the stubbles from the previous crop.

3 Ways To Make Lots Of Money From The Multi-billion Naira Rice Industry
3 Ways To Make Lots Of Money From The Multi-billion Naira Rice Industry

Vertebrate Pest: Birds are problems during grain filling. Control them manually by scaring them, and planting at the same time.

Good farm hygiene is important in rice field to control rats and grass cutters. They can also be killed with snap traps


Blast: Blast disease is cause by fungus {Pyricularia oryzae}. It is very prevalent in lowland rice areas or the country. It damages plants especially during the seedling stage.

Control Method:

Cultural Method:- Planting resistant varieties and avoiding close planting in the nursery.

READ MORE: Rice Common Diseases, Symptoms And Management

Chemical Method:- Apply systemic insecticides.

Brown Leaf Spot: It is a world wide disease. It spreads rapidly if good screening disease seedlings are not practiced. Resistant cultivars, should be grown and hygienic measures be adopted.

Safe And Correct Use Of Herbicides

Choice Of Product:

Selective herbicides usually specific to certain types of weeds.

Both selective herbicides and non-selective herbicides can be by contact or systemic.

Time Of Application:

Pre-plant herbicide before crop is planted.

Pre-emergence herbicide before crop and weed start to germinate.

Post-emergence herbicides after crop and weed have germinated usually at 2-3 leaf stage.

Water Management:

Drain water before application of herbicides and flood 2-3 days after application.

Other General Safety Rules:

Before using a chemical, be sure you know how to apply the chemical, and the quantity to use. Always read the label on the chemicals container, or ask for help.

When working on the field – either spraying or doing any other work – wear protective clothes, gloves, rain boots, e.t.c.

Maintain spraying machines in good condition. Do not use broken or leaking equipment.

Never eat, drink or smoke while spraying chemicals.

Dilute any chemical remaining in the knapsack sprayer with water after spraying is completed. Pour the dilution unto the ground at the side of the field, well away from any water supply or drainage.

If you become contaminated with insecticides remove contaminated clothing immediately and wash yourself thoroughly with soap and water.

If you feel unwell, visit the hospital.

After spraying, wash your hand and face with clean water and soap.

Return concentrated chemicals to the store immediately after use.

Dispose off chemicals which are no longer required in chemical disposal pits.

Puncture or crush empty insecticide containers before disposal.

Rice Harvesting

Rice is ready for harvesting when the grains are hard and are turning yellow {about 30 – 45 days after flowering}. At this stage, the moisture content of the grain is about 18 – 25 percent. Cut the stem with a sickle about 10 -15cm above the ground. Tie and lay the harvested rice crop in upright position for drying before threshing.

Iroko says, “If you want to harvest manually for five hectares, it is very difficult to embark upon, because it will cost you more labour and money. The best thing is the use of a harvester, which makes it very easy, in the sense that, as the harvester is harvesting, it is threshing immediately and all you need is to take your paddy rice.

Size Of Land For Commercial Rice Farming

Iroko says, “You have to plant, then plant at least, five hectares; and you have to also prepare for the cost. From my experience, the estimate for just one hectare is N300,000, but my advise for new entrants is that they should start small”.

Minimum Startup Capital

Iroko says, “If you want to plant one hectare, be ready to spend N300,000 – breaking it down, one hectare is just two and half acres. So, if you want to start small, like one acre, you just divide that amount into three”.

How Lucrative Is Rice Farming?

Iroko says, “I can assure SuccessDigest readers and even Nigerians that farming in general and rice farming in particular is what anybody can do to sustain their family. I am a living witness here, in the sense that I am not doing any other job than farming – I am a full time farmer and that is what I am using to cater for my family”.

2. As A Processor: The second way you can make lots of money from the rice industry is by being a processor. You don’t have to be a farmer to be a processor, all you have to do is to reach out to farmers who are willing to sell their rice, buy from them and go on to process it yourself, package it and sell for profit.

Rice Processing

Paddy rice is not ready for consumption until it is processed. Iroko says, “The government has helped us in this regard by giving us a processing mill in this area. You just take your paddy rice there and you are charged per kilo – N30 per kilo. Though, government has subsidized the processing cost, if you can get your own, it will be easy.

For instance, I have my own rice to process now, but I need to consult them at the mill to know when they will be available”.

The processing of rice generally takes place away from the farm. Many farmers are able to sell their rice before it is harvested as traders come to the farms to negotiate prices. The rice is then taken away and parboiled to soften the husk, before it is milled and marketed. The parboiling is carried out in huge oil drums.

After the rice has been parboiled, it is laid out on tarpaulins to dry. It is at this stage that there is a danger of small stones getting mixed up with the rice grains, reducing its marketability.

Nigerian rice faces competition from imported rice which is favoured for its long white grains. Imported rice, although widely considered less tasty, demands less preparation as it contains no stones.

Eliminating stones from Nigerian rice, by using a destoner or building designated threshing and drying floors would allow Nigerian rice to compete with imported rice.

Raising the quality of local rice might discourage rice importation, whilst boosting local production. Much of the milling is done by co-operatives, the largest of which is in Lafia, in Nassarawa State, where there are around 700 mills; rice milled here is transported to all parts of the country by truck.

The millers, though, have noted a downturn in trade since the restrictions on rice importation were lifted.

Packaging After Processing

Iroko says, “At present, I have three kinds of packaging. I package with nylons, sacks and small cartons – the ones in cartons weigh two kilos each and cost N250 each; the ones in nylons weigh five kilos each; and the ones in sacks weigh 25 kilos each. Meanwhile, packaging is very important in rice farming, because it gets consumers attracted to your product”.

3. As A Distributor:The third way you can get involved in the highly lucrative rice industry is to be a distributor. You buy in bulk from the processor, locate markets and sell to them.

Marketing Strategies Deployed For Distribution

Iroko says, ‘Presently we don’t have enough rice. If what we produce is more than what is demanded, we will start using different marketing strategies. But now, immediately we harvest and get it processed, buyers usually come for it, because many people know the value of this our local rice. We also plant Ofada rice. People already know me, so they come to buy their rice at home and sell at the nearby market at times”.

Opportunities For Non Rice Farmers

Iroko says, “We have many farmers who do not have the capacity to process the rice they produce. When such farmers plant and harvest their rice, they sell them to those who are interested and who have the financial capability to process and package rice.

This is another business opportunity in rice farming – if you can’t farm, you can buy the paddy rice from the farmers and process it. Though, the farmer won’t get a reasonable return. It is better to be a farmer who processes and packages his products himself – we are training people in that respect”.

Challenges/ Solutions

Iroko says, “In this area, I will call on our businessmen and government to please assist farmers fully because food is very vital to a nation. Most especially in terms of the major rice challenge – birds scaring – it is important for all the levels of government to rise to this challenge.

For those that don’t know, birds scaring affects rice at the mature stage; and because birds too like better things, they will want to destroy the fruits. Even in other foreign countries, where rice is planted, birds also affect them, and I learnt that in Italy they use helicopters and guns to scare birds off”.

Government Support For The Rice Industry

Iroko says, “We thank the Lagos State Government under the leadership of Governor Babatunde Fashola for really helping in terms of farming generally and rice farming particularly.” If not for the present governor, someone like me would have quit rice farming, because rice production is not something you can’t do alone”.

A source at Lagos CADP who craved anonymity says, “Initially, Lagos state was not a rice producing state, but taking a look at the population of Lagos state – over 20 million – and taking into cognizance the fact that there is no home where rice is not consumed on a daily basis, the state got involved in rice farming, and it is an on-going thing. Also, the state realized that over 50 percent (20 million metric tons) of rice imported into the country annually is consumed in Lagos state.

READ MORE: Why our rice is poorly processed’

“So, as part of the move to make Lagos State the food basket of the nation and ensure food security, Lagos State has embarked upon an Intervention Project of Rice Farming. It is also one of the cardinal programmes of the state that brought about the Rice for Job Progamme.

“The high point of this project is that Lagos State has an automated means of rice production – from the land preparation stage to the processing stage before marketing. In view of this, government has already engaged over 500 youths – recruitment, empowerment and assistance in terms of rice seeds, input, land and planting. There has also been the provision of a cottage rice processing mill in Itoga, Badagry and residences for the participating youths”.

The Federal Government has also recently funded the establishment of about 13 mills with combined capacity of 240,000 across the country. The government is willing and capable to assist prospective investors in the area of production and processing of rice. The Federal

Government has also concluded arrangements to roll out a new policy that will ensure that loans are available at single digit interest rate to farmers with effect from this year, 2013.

General Advice

Iroko says, “Let me say to our youths in Nigeria that there is nothing bad in farming. It is also a business – if you are selling spare parts, roofing sheets or engaged in other types of trade, they’re just like farming. Putting money in farming is like someone putting his or her money in those trades or businesses.

Authoritatively, I can tell you that compared to other trades there are good returns in farming, if done properly. Farmers should also follow government and expert advice.


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