The ban on rice importation and its resultant effect on the high cost of the staple food is a blessing in disguise for local farmers, who are beginning to eat the fruits of their labour.
This is because the development has not only forced consumers to patronise the different species of locally produced rice, it has also given impetus to the farmers to look inward to see ways of increasing their yield.
Before now, state governors made promises to boost local production of rice to fill the vacuum created by the ban. As at the last count, seven states-Anambra, Niger, Kebbi, Lagos, Cross River, Ebonyi, Delta and Plateau-were able to fulfill this promise.
For instance, the subsidised Lake Rice being sold in Lagos is a product of the collaboration between Lagos and Kebbi states for the development of agricultural commodities. Lake Rice is an acronym for Lagos-Kebbi rice.
The product, packaged in 50kg, 25kg and 10kg bags, is offered for sale to residents at N12, 000.00, N6, 000.00 and N2, 500.00 respectively, a sharp difference from imported rice, currently sold between N18, 000 and N20, 000.
Similar efforts at rice production are also going on in Delta State where through the assistance of the state government farmers were able to meet the demands of the populace. A rice farmer in Asaba, the state capital, Mr. Raymos Guanah, who attested to the development, affirmed that local rice is now well processed and cheaper than the imported one, creating increase in demand. “Nigerians are beginning to be more aware that there is so much difference between the locally-produced rice and the imported. Local rice is very nutritious. The rice we produced last year has been bought off and we have nothing left in stock.”
In Asaba, before the Christmas, a 50kg bag of local rice sold for about N17, 000, almost at the same price with the imported brand, but despite this, consumers were undeterred as they shunned the foreign brand.
For Kebbi State, its impact is felt in Northern markets and beyond, as seen in its collaboration with Lagos State. It was learnt that traders come from other states to buy and move it to other parts of the country.
Also, Olam Farm, producers of Mama Pride, which boasts of providing locally produced rice to markets across the country, is scaling up its production to over 40,000mt of paddy rice annually, based on what it has achieved in 2016.
The farm has commenced the process of increasing the number of farmers in its outgrower scheme from the initial 3,000 to 5,000, to cultivate a total of 5,500 hectares of farm through the Anchor Borrower Scheme of the Central Bank and the International Fund for Agriculture Value Chain programme.
The General Manager, Project Coordinator of the farm, Mahesh Ninye disclosed that the target was to get 10,000-12,000mt of paddy rice through the outgrower scheme, adding that the farmers had been assured that Olam would buy up the paddy rice after harvest.
Speaking on their contribution to the self-sufficiency target in rice production of the Federal Government, Ninye said the farm had increased its hectare under cultivation from 3,800-4,500 hectare, disclosing that their plan was to cultivate 13,500 hectares by 2018, so as to boost local production of the food crop.
In Plateau, Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RiFAN), Mr. Joshua Bitrus, attributed the feat achieved so far to personal efforts of the farmers and the support from the state government. Bitrus also commended the ban on the importation of rice, noting that it had encouraged local farmers.
He stated that with the quantity of rice being harvested in many parts of the country, the pains rice consumers went through when the price rose up, would reduce, as the prices would drop considerably.
The chairman disclosed that a 50kg bag of rice, which sold at N23, 000 in the southern part of Plateau last month, currently sells for around N12, 000 and N15, 000.
He expressed the hope that the price would remain at that level so that farmers could get “something reasonable for their efforts and be encouraged to cultivate more in the coming years.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has expressed its readiness to partner OLAM Farm Nigeria, in the area of domestic food production, through scaling up of rice cultivation.
This was made known during the visit of the presidential committee on rice production to the farm.While taking the delegates round, the Vice president of the farm, Mr. Regi George, said it his organisation had developed 10,000 hectares fully irrigated paddy farm on a green field site in Rukubi, Nasarawa State.
He assured the delegates that Nigeria was on the part to achieving self-sufficiency in rice production, promising that Olam Farm was ready to increase partnership with government in training local farmers and providing a ready market.
“Olams farm is a large-scale agriculture grower equipped with a modern mechanised rice milling facility and a fully irrigated farming system, a state-of- the-art milling technology and Italian par boiling technology with annual production of 70,000 metric tons of high school milled rice to the domestic market. We have the machine capacity to produce 103 tons per annum,” he said.
George stressed that over 950 workers were employed at the mill during peak season, noting that it has the ‘nucleus’ model, which combines quality control of a large-scale commercial farm with the cost and scalability benefits of out grower’s networks.
The vice president noted that rice-growing communities in Nasarawa, Benue and Kaduna states are supported by Olam with group formation, training and all agric inputs on credit, in order to improve their own paddy yields and revenues with an assured buy-back system.
He however, disclosed that the FG, CBN, IFAD, USAID and Olams partners project supported outgrowers with certified seeds, fertilisers agro-chemicals, training and price regulative committee.
He added that 4,003 farmers including women are currently engaged in the programme with an area of 5,563 hectares with a target of 16,000 by 2018, ultimately supplying 30-40 per cent of the mill’s capacity.