Though ravaged by Boko Haram attacks, states in the north-eastern part of Nigeria are recording bumper harvests in rice cultivation, a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) has said.
The report said it recently conducted a survey with rice farmers, millers and dealers to know find out the success rate of the federal government policies on rice production in Nigeria.
The report quoted Baba Kaye, chairman of Rice Dealers Association in Gombe state, as noting that the intervention of the federal government had stabilised the price of rice for some time now. “The price has remained stable without fluctuating; we are grateful to the Federal Government for encouraging dry season farming and this has impacted positively on us,” he said.
On his part, Tasiu Kuri, a rice farmer in Kuri village of Gombe state, attributed the increase in rice production to the decision of federal government to ban the importation of foreign rice through the country’s land borders while Yahaya Yusuf, chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) in Bauchi state, projected that the state alone would cultivate about one million tonnes of rice in 2017, as against the 600,000 tonnes it cultivated in 2016.
Musa Takari, a rice farmer in Gashua, Yobe, was reported as saying that the ban on importation of rice had also provoked an increase in the consumption of local rice, thereby triggering massive production. “Before now, the market has been very bad and discouraging but the increased patronage has made us to produce more rice,” he said.
The report says the story has been similar in other parts of the country, as there has been dramatic increase in quantity of rice produced by rice farmers across the country.
In Abakaliki, for instance, the state government said that it had met the target of producing 350,000 tonnes of rice, which it set for the 2016 farming season.
The commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in the state, Uchenna Orji, told NAN in Abakaliki, that the state was able to achieve that feat because the state government invested massively in rice production in 2016 adding that the government’s determination to revolutionalise rice production in Ebonyi was due to its comparative advantage over other states in the area of rice farming.
Mr Orji said that efforts were underway to ensure that Ebonyi reclaimed its position as the highest rice producing state in West Africa.
In spite of the claims on massive production of rice across the country, NAN observed that the rice milling capacities of the states differed and this, coupled with the different distribution patterns, could explain the scarcity of local rice in the markets.
In Sokoto state, the rice millers, however, said that they were producing below capacity. For example, Nura Attajiri, the chairman, Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Rice Millers Association in the state, said that the rice millers produced only about 150 tonnes per annum.
“Although there are 255 millers, with machines having installed capacity of producing about 350 tonnes of milled rice per annum, in the state, their output is just about 150 tonnes per annum.
“This shortfall is caused by the various challenges facing the millers; these include poor electricity supply and inadequate funds to procure paddy for processing, among others.
“As such, we have been campaigning and looking into how the state government and other relevant agencies can boost the rice production capacity of millers through various intervention programmes.
“Moreover, the Federal Government’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, launched in Kebbi state, did not include SME millers but only integrated millers, while Sokoto State has no integrated millers.
“Although the state government is putting in more efforts to assist us to improve production, we need more government intervention, particularly in the area of rice processing,” he said.
However, the zonal chapter of RIFAN in Daura, Katsina state, said that the absence of rice milling plants in Daura had been a major limitation to efforts to produce rice.
Nura Baure, the zonal chairman of the association, said that although there were rice milling plants in Batagarawa and Funtua, “those areas are very far from our farmers and the transportation cost is a burden to our farmers."
In Port Harcourt, Awotien George of Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Environment, Rivers state University of Science and Technology, RSUST, Port Harcourt, said that the few rice mills in the state were non-functional. He recalled that the dearth of functional rice mills in the state compelled Port Harcourt Glorious Cooperative Society to transport the rice, which was produced during 2016 planting season, to Ebonyi for milling.
He, therefore, urged the state government to be actively involved in agricultural production.
In Kebbi, a major rice producing state in the country, as the state is home to large rice mills such as WACOT Rice Mill and Labana Rice Mill.
Abdullahi Zuru, the General Manager of Labana Rice Mill, said that the mill, which was established at the cost of N5 billion, had the capacity to process and package 16 tonnes of rice within an hour. He said that the mill, which had 2,000 employees, had three different means of obtaining paddy.
Meanwhile, NAIJ.com visited a market to know the impact of the economy on the cost of commodities. Here is the video: