The Federal Government says it will establish no fewer than 14 additional rice mills in the country to meet increasing demand for local rice and achieve self sufficiency.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said this at the AgroNigeria High Level Rice Conference in Abuja on Tuesday.
Ogbeh, who was represented by Alhaji Muyiwa Azeez, the Director, Agribusiness and Marketing in the ministry, said the mills would be sited in different states.
“ Different brands of home grown international grade rice can now be found in the market. This has been a great stride.
A total of 14 number mills will soon come on board and expected to provide an additional investment of 250 billion in the rice processing sector.
“Government policy under the current administration of substituting import rice with intense local production has boosted the morale of farmers and rice millers.
“That in the past three years, paddy production has seen exponential growth, reaching 6.9 million metric tonnes in 2016 that is 4.41 million tonnes of milled rice and 8.019 million metric tonnes that is 4.81 million tonnes of milled rice in 2017.
“We are on track to self sufficiency in rice production.’’
He said the growth recorded in the rice value chain was due to improved access to finance and inputs from the Anchor Borrowers Programme of the CBN.
The minister said the current demand for paddy rice was about 9.5 million metric tonnes while the deficit stood at about 1.99 million metric tonnes.
Gov. Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State on his part said the country should aim to be among global competitors in rice production.
Bagudu who described imported rice as `chaff and not fit for human consumption’, said that smugglers bring in these rice for citizens to buy them at cheaper prices.
“The major misrepresentation in the rice story is that there is rice out there in other countries that is cheaper than the Nigerian rice
“I think if there is anything we can do collectively as stakeholders, it is to appreciate the significance of that, so that we can be better stakeholders.
“Because no matter the policy platform that is provided, if we stakeholders do not serve as guards of our interest, then it cannot be sustained.
“We are not dealing with a case where somebody is bringing rice of equivalent quality and selling it cheaper.
“It is a situation where somebody is bringing rice that is of poorer quality and because people do not discriminate, they just want lower price and they don’t know any better so, that rice is been sold lower.
Mr Aliyu Abdulhameed, the Managing Director of the Nigeria Incentive Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), said that the organisation has introduced some financial models to inject fresh drive into agriculture.
Abdulhameed listed the models to include Agricultural Primary Production Aggregation Service System (A-PASS), FAM-SMART (Farm Aggregation Model for Smallholder Farmer Agriculture Based on Technology), among others.
He said that NIRSAL had assisted 27,000 smallholder farmers with loans of approximately N3.4billion largely in Kebbi State through the Anchor Borrrowers Programme (ABP).
“This is a system developed to enable Small-holder Farmers to aggregate their land holdings (maximum of 250 Ha), and adopt single commodity of production.
“Input and mechanisation services are provided in a structured manner’’.
Dr Luzius Caviezel, the Regional Director (Africa) of Syngenta, Switzerland, said the organisation could assist the country in crops protection and improved seeds.
He said that smallholder aggregation, training and market access was crucial to promoting agriculture in the country.
The two day conference was to create a rice alliance that would incorporate the public and private sectors to find solution to challenges in the rice value chain.