Figures given by the Minister of Agriculture, Ayodeji Akinwunmi, revealed that about N356 billion is spent on rice importation annually.
In spite of this, rice producers in the country are still unable to meet local demand, meaning that at least an average of N1 billion worth of rice is demanded daily.
According to Ibrahim Iroko, the president of the Badagry Rice Farmers Association Itoga, "In Badagry after harvesting and processing rice, everything produced is bought off immediately by bulk buyers." Iroko who spoke on behalf of all other farmers at the rice farm explains the business.
He said, "We plant different varieties of rice such as Ofada, Nerica 8 and Faro 44. The rice we produce is more nutritious than the imported ones where most of the nutrients have been washed off during processing. Once we harvest and process, people buy off immediately. The demand is high even for local rice, but the quantity we are able to produce is not much.
The Lagos State Government has been very helpful but we appeal to the federal government to offer help to rice farmers so that we can plant more by making available tractors, harvesters, boom sprayers, etc, which are needed to spray the farm and kill weeds at an early stage.
"With mechanisation, farming would become more attractive to youths as opposed to this growing trend of 'okada' business."
"Rice farming without mechanisation is tedious and not so profitable. For instance, when rice is planted today, the following day, the boom sprayer has to be used to prevent weeds. If done, weeds would not come up until about two months later by which time the rice would have fully grown."
"We plant upland and lowland rice here in Itoga. We have about 51 varieties of rice, but we chose Nerica 8 which matures in 72 days because the stalk is not so strong to support the weight of birds perching on it and sucking the milk."
"We normally start planting in March, but due to climate change we would need irrigation so that when the rain does not come when it is supposed to, we would not lose our crops. We are so thankful to the Lagos State government that has started constructing irrigation facilities, so that with or without rain, we can plant rice at least twice a year. We have been planting only once a year.
Another major challenge is working capital. With the exception of some, many of the farmers have just one or two hectares under cultivation. But one farmer can easily manage five to 15 hectares. In one hectare, if there is no delay in rain and all goes well, about 2. 5 tonnes of rice can be gotten from one hectare, that is about 100 or 50 bags.
We use 25 or 50 kilo bags. We sell 25 kilo at N3, 500 and 50 kilo for N7, 000. So about N350, 000 can be realised as gross profit on one hectare, but so many factors can reduce the profit on that."