The federal government Monday moved to boost rice production by signing a N10 billion contract for the construction of integrated large scale rice processing plants in ten states of the federation.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and MV Agro PVT of India and its partners, MV Agro Engineers Nigeria limited.
The 10 states where the rice mills will be cited are Anambra, Kaduna, Kebbi, Ogun, Zamfara, Kogi, Benue, Bauchi, Niger and Bayelsa.
According to the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, the 10 plants are to be delivered within 18 months or latest by December 2019.
Each plant will have the capacity to produce 30,000 metric tonnes of rice per annum. The cost of each plant is N1 billion.
Ogbeh justified the agreement with the Indian equipment makers, saying in the past, the deal for 10 mills would only have covered four mills.
In spite of this bold initiative, the proposed plants will only boost Nigeria’s rice production capacity by an additional 300,000 metric tonnes per year.
Nigeria’s current annual rice production capacity is only about 4 million MT below the national annual demand of 7 million MT.
The minister, who was accompanied at the contract signing event by the Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, said 60 integrated large scale rice processing plants were required and must be fully operational for Nigeria to be self sufficient in rice production.
At present there are only 18 operating large scale rice plants in Nigeria, each having annual processing capacity varying from 15,000 MT- 120,000 MT per year.
“We can’t afford spending $5 billion again per year importing rice. 13 million Nigerians are in the farms growing rice and the number can get to 20 million,” Ogbeh said.