LAGOS – Stakeholders in the agriculture sector have backed the Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono on his view that Nigeria can begin to export rice by year 2022.
They argued that with what happened during the last yuletide that it was evident that there was no one that complained of scarcity of Nigerian rice, unanimously saying that it is possible for the country to commence rice export and begin to earn foreign exchange through the exportation drive.
Emmanuel Ijewere, Vice President, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), in his view stated that against the background of the development that has happened in the last few months, he is optimistic that it is possible to do rice export before 24 months.
He said: “There had been a lot of momentum gathered now and more and more Nigerians are now falling in love with Nigerian rice. They found the quality and this is what we have been saying over the years, it has now begin to be dawn on them that Nigerian rice is of good quality and nutritious. This last Christmas was a turning point.
“A lot of people are forced to eat Nigerian rice which tasted better than the foreign one which has been produced for over 10 to 15 years before being imported into the country. The two years is too much. I agree absolutely with what the Minister,” he said.
Wale Oyekoya, Agriculturist/Consultant said that there is nothing wrong in exporting our rice product to other countries for balance of trade and to earn foreign exchange, but he noted that the country must be self-sufficient and be able to feed its citizens before thinking of feeding other countries.
Oyekoya further stated that the country needs to improve on the quality of the product and its packaging.
“We also have to improve on the quality of our products with good packaging. Right now our citizens are rejecting the quality of rice produced in the country compared to foreign brands that are well acceptable,” he added.
Also Biodun Onalaja, Chairman and CEO of Okun rice, supported the Minister stating that if the country maintains the momentum it is possible, stressing that with the support of the state and the Federal government for the farmers and millers rice can be exported to other countries.
“If we maintain the momentum and with the state and federal government support for both Farmers and millers and federal government, and with good policy in place, we can get there to be Exporter of Rice to other African countries,” he said.
Paul Adekunle, regional coordinator, Tractor Owners and Hiring Facilities Association of Nigeria (TOHFAN), said that if Nigeria continues to drive agriculture the way we are doing now, it is possible according to what the Minister said and that it is not only rice but various agricultural commodities.
“We found out that Nigeria is where the market is. We thank God for the current giant step taken by this administration to close the border and stop the importations of these products.
He said that the closure is helping the nation’s local production, but that more still need to be done in the area of processing.
“We still need to do more in the area of processing because a lot of people are complaining of stones on the rice, but I know gradually we will get over this.
A lot of companies are now diverting to agriculture. We know that if a lot of private sector and big companies come into agriculture it will complement what the government is doing.
“We should not believe that government alone can drive agricultural we need the private sector involvement fully in driving agribusiness,” he added.
However, Shakin Agbayewa, Lagos State Deputy Chairman AFAN wondered how feasible it would be considering the various challenges the farmers are still been faced with.
“I am a little bit in the middle. I will not subscribe fully. One of the major factors that militate against successful farmers is the clearing of the bush, and if you are talking about clearing of the bush it takes about 60 per cent of your capital which the small holder farmers cannot afford to do.
“ If you are going for the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) the first thing they will ask you is that they want cluster, do you have off taker, how can I do cluster, when I cannot clear the bush, that means I must go to a well prepared land. And for me to access a well prepared land I must have money,” he said.
Agbayewa also said that government should partner with the public sector, that if government create an enabling environment, help farmers in land clearing and provide the necessary support then exporting rice in the next two years will be possible.
It would be recalled that the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, has stated that Nigeria can be a rice exporting nation in the next two years if it maintains the same momentum towards being rice sufficient.
Nanono said the country currently boasts of about 11 active rice milling plants with a capacity to produce 180-350 tonnes of rice per day, stressing that another rice milling plant with a capacity of 400 tonnes per day would be commissioned soon.
He stated this during a courtesy visit to Nestle Nigeria Head Office in Lagos.
“Apart from these ones, there are some other ones probably about 34 of them. We also have clusters in different areas and prior to the border closure, most of these rice milling plants were partially operating, but now they are not only operating at full capacity, but are also extending to other states. So for rice, if we maintain the same momentum, we may even export it. I have checked and what I have found is that about 100 per cent of them have stocked rice for the next six months.”
On the border closure, the Minister said the closure has made rice producers to be fully engaged, creating job opportunities directly and indirectly while also integrating the nation’s agricultural value chain.
“For me and the rest of us, the closure of the border is a blessing and people are becoming even more creative,” he added.
Nanono also stated that plans are also underway to train over 50,000 extension agents over the next three years to increase the quantity and quality of raw material inputs for local processors and farmers, saying that the number of extension agents in the nation’s agricultural value chain is largely inadequate which he said was the reason for the disconnect between the agricultural and industrial sectors of the economy.
Meanwhile the Federal Government has received request from the Government of Guninea –Bissau seeking assistance in rice production so as to enable them strive towards food sufficiency, food security and nutrition.
Nanono while receiving His Excellency Henrique Adriano Da Silva the Guinean Ambassador to Nigeria, along with His Excellency Suffyan Koroma, the Country Representative of Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) emphasised that in the meantime, the Ministry will assist Guinea-Bissau in terms of personnel training /technical assistance in rice value chain.
The Minister was quick to note that establishing bilateral agreements between the two Governments were absolutely necessary as he also promised to meet with the Guinean Minister of Agriculture to commence the initiative.
Ambassador Da Silva had earlier stated that rice value chain was the core of Guinean agriculture which saw Guinea exporting rice to other countries like Angola, Mozambique and Portugal among others.
The Ambassador further remarked that as at today, 90 per cent of rice consumed in the country was imported which calls for the government to seek assistance from the Nigerian government.
On the other hand, the Country Representative of Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), His Excellency Suffyan Koroma presented a document which chronicles activities of FAO in Nigeria from 2017 to present.
However, the request comes on the heels of the innovative successes recorded in the production of Nigerian rice by Nigerian Farmers which can be tied to the equipping of farmers with improved rice seedlings, farm inputs and providing anchor borrowing facilities by the current Administration.