A rice breeder and a professor of Plant Breeding in the College of Plant Science and Crop Production of the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Professor Francis Showemimo, has said that it is possible to stop rice importation to Nigeria but not in 2017.
He said he supported the Federal Government initiative to stop rice importation but noted that the process had to be gradual, stating that maybe 2017 should be the first phase of 50 per cent reduction in importation, then 80 per cent by 2018 and by 2020, the total phasing-out could be carried out.
“Before we can stop importation, we must have enough rice we can consume and export. But, if we do not have enough rice to consume and possibly export, it will be difficult to stop importation.”
On how to increase rice production, the Don said government should resuscitate farm settlements, empower interested agriculturally inclined-youths and create conducive atmosphere for states to grow crops that they have comparative advantage over others.
“States like Niger, Kebbi, Ebonyi, Anambra and Ogun have fertile lands to grow rice in large quantities. I believe that it is the best way the government can go and they cannot just start it at the centre.
“It must be at the states. Each state must know the crops they can produce in large quantities. Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa States, are good for tuber crops like yam, cocoyam, sweet and Irish potato, while, Ebonyi, Anambra, Imo, Edo, Delta, Rivers States can produce all palm products in large quantities. Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina can produce pepper, tomatoes, onions.
Adding, “These states can go into massive production and export to states that do not have such privileges. There is need for conscious effort and monitoring to kill the taste for foreign rice. No matter how bad our rice is, we will continue to improve till we get there,” he stated.
He advised diabetic patients to eat the improved variety of Ofada Rice, to reduce the level of sugar and increase antioxidant vitamins in their system.
Showemimo, however, added his voice to the growing call that research conducted in the country should be geared towards meeting societal aspirations.
“We have done a lot of research in this country. What we need to do is to patent them, commercialise and mass produce them. Research should be done to meet the needs of the people and provide solution to problems.”
Professor Showemimo said one of the ways to make this a reality, is for the government to stop paying lip service to research and decentralise its mode of operations, particularly, when it comes to implementing the policies on agriculture, to ensure food security in the land.
“I would say that decentralise the centre, empower all the federating units and make them powerful enough to cater for what they can achieve through crop production. If government can do that, research will go a long way to solving our myriads of challenges,” he added.