Chief Audu Ogbeh, minister of agriculture and rural development recently in Lagos made a solemn claim but with firm assurance that by 2020, Nigeria will not only stop rice importation but will assume a status of net exporter. CHIKA IZUORA in this report, looks at indices that give impetus to this stance.
It was at a lecture organised by the Catholic Brothers United, a religious group at the St. Agnes Catholic Church, Maryland in Lagos. Chief Audu Ogbeh, minister of agriculture and rural development was the guest speaker on the topic, "Technology and Agricultural Revolution: A Tool for Economic Growth". Throughout the duration of the lecture that lasted more than three hours, he spoke extensively on governments efforts to boost rice production in the country."
According to him, at the moment Nigeria has reduced rice importation by 90 per cent, meaning we need just a little effort to achieve 100 per year. He emphatically said that in two years, Nigeria will exit rice importation. Ogheh, insisted that Nigeria is going to be self-sufficient in rice production and prices are also expected to fall.
However, a peep into the industry in the past indeed, shows a fluctuation of the local commodity production from 2,400 to 3,600 in the past five years. The import rates have also increased to 5,850 from 4,800 during the same period of time. At the same time, the country is experiencing a rise in consumption rate of the same commodity. Last year, the consumption rate has risen to seven million Metric Tons according to government statistics with only 2.7 million metric tons produced by Nigerian farmers.
In 2016, Nigeria projected to reach 2.7 million metric tons in 2017 if government policy of restricting importation was strictly adhered to. According to the Nigeria rice production statistics, the imports have started to make up 50 per cent of the local consumption rates.
However, after a policy turn around towards promoting agriculture, Nigeria has realised an estimated N102.6 billion as revenue from the value of rice produced locally by farmers in 18 states under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN's) Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP).
According to Growth and Employment in States (GEMS4) report on Nigeria's rice production from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, a programme funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DfID), titled "Mapping of rice produc-tion clusters in Nigeria," GEMS4 revealed that Nigeria is reaping from the CBN's Anchor Borrowers Programme and is on the verge of attaining its rice self-sufficiency target this year.
A breakdown of the report last year, revealed that the total paddy production in Nigeria in 2016 was estimated at 17,487,562 metric tons, leaving a balance of about 11.4 million metric tons after accounting for 12.4 per cent of rice production wasted due to post-harvest losses.
Consequently, this left a total of 5.7 million metric tons of milled rice, bringing Nigeria's rice production closer to the seven million projected milled rice requirement for 2016.
According to the report, 18 states were selected based on their contribution to national production as per the 2015 Agricultural Production Survey (APS). In those 18 states, rice farming was described as widely spread across 165 clusters and 2,812 subclusters.
"The 2016 total paddy production estimate is put at 17.5 million tons with a marketing surplus (after post-harvest losses and domestic use) of 11.4 million tons (equivalent to 5.7 million tons milled equivalent), just below the total national demand for rice, which was projected to reach seven million in 2016. This implies that the country is progressing towards its goal of rice self-sufficiency," the report stated.
Kebbi State led with 3.56 million metric tons for the wet and dry seasons production combined, followed by Kano at 2.82 million metric tons. Kebbi produced 2.05 million metric tons in the wet season and 1.51 million metric tons in the dry season, while Kano produced 1.86 and 0.96 million metric tons during the wet and dry seasons respectively over the same period under review. However, only 10 of the 18 states were involved in the dry season production.
According to the study, GEMS4 embarked upon a mapping exercise of rice production clusters through researchers and enumerators' visits to rice production locations in 18 states, namely: Bauchi, Benue, Ebonyi, Ekiti, FCT, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi and Kogi.
Others are Kwara, Nassarawa, Niger, Ogun, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara. The researchers, according to the study, expressed optimism that information of paddy production clusters will support the development of supply chains from nearby rice clusters around existing commercial rice mills or proposed new plants in the country.
A cluster is an agglomeration of various rice production communities or sub-clusters, located around specific geographic production continuum, sharing some natural resources, such as water and flood plains. Findings by GEMS4 revealed the responses of states to the federal government's policy goal of reducing import dependence, particularly of rice, which drains about N1 billion daily on importation.
The report also noted that 10 per cent of total arable land in Nigeria is used for rice cultivation, although Nigeria is the largest producer of rice in West Africa, it is the second largest importer of rice globally. Analysis of the report indicated a dry season production of 4,646,296.64 metric tons or 26.57 per cent, cultivated on 3,037,324 hectares of farmlands and wet season production of 12,841,265.18 metric tons or 73.43 per cent, cultivated over 859,624 hectares.
It also showed that 1.43 million rice farmers were involved in the wet season, representing 17.7 per cent of farming families in the wet season in Nigeria. In the dry season, however, the estimated total number of farmers was 410,210, representing only 5.1 per cent of the total farming families.
A conspicuous finding on the average yield per hectare was that the yields during the dry season were consistently and comparatively higher than in wet seasons for all states involved in both wet and dry season cultivation, which opens an area of great prospects for policy intervention in rice production in Nigeria.
The average yield per hectare of rice during the wet season was found to be the highest in Ebonyi, at 5.63 metric tons, but lowest in Kwara at 2.68 tons. For the dry season, Niger recorded the highest average yield per hectare of 6.45 metric tons while Kaduna had the least average yield per hectare of 3.5 metric tons.
GEMS4 report, however, listed the potential for increasing productivity, pointing out that 13 per cent of farmers reported using high-yielding planting method (transplanting seedlings), while 32 per cent used irrigation and 56 per cent had access to one hectare of additional land.
The report listed the challenges observed to include finding that farmers generally reported having difficulties acquiring agroinputs, particularly quality seed and fertiliser and accessing credit. Infrastructure such as irrigation facilities, feeder roads and storage facilities constituted an area of challenge with poor quality or a total lack of it.
Others include flooding in wet season, poor access to information on modern methods of farming and post-harvest technologies, poor access to credit, and a loss of labour through migration of young people to cities, resulting in aging farming population.
LEADERSHIP reports that although rice is a traditional crop in Nigeria, local production was limited until recently. Internal demand is growing and, at the same time, rice is a major commodity of world trade. Nigeria is therefore under pressure from international bodies not to restrict imports; production under local conditions to match prices of rice produced on large mechanised farms therefore represents a considerable challenge.
Considerable effort has gone into breeding rice for West African conditions by both West Africa Rice Development Association WARDA and national research and dissemination institutions such as the National Cereals Research Institute NCRI.
DFID therefore commissioned a three-country study, MAPs (Multi-Agency Partnerships) to be co-ordinated by the Overseas Development Institute, on the effectiveness of linkages between local, national and international institutions in disseminating improved technologies for rice production. Just recently, Kebbi State government, announced it has commenced rice exportation to West and North African countries.
Speaking when he hosted the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers' Council (NSC) Barr Hassan Bello, the governor of the state, Sen. Abubakar Atiku Bagudu said the state has started exporting rice to Republic of Benin, Niger and Libya in the last three years.
"We are exporting rice because people from Benin Republic, Niger and Libya are buying our rice except if you are defining export as selling to the West (Europe). Bello had visited the governor with his management team to inform the Governor about the plans to establish an Inland Container Depot (ICD) and a Truck Transit Park in the state.
The Governor however assured the Council of the readiness of his administration to support any project that will drive trade facilitation and sustain economic growth. He described Kebbi as agrarian state which has potential in agriculture, including aquatic splendour, which makes the state as part of the Blue Sea economy.
Bagudu described the ICD and Truck Transit Park as very important projects to the state considering that it has enormous agricultural and minerals deposits. He said that sharing borders with Niger and Benin Republic, Kebbi has an advantage of exporting commodities.
The governor also explained that the state has seven big rivers, including Argungu River which promotes the International Fishing Festival that has become a tourist destination. Apart from being a rice producer, Kebbi, the governor said produces onions and pepper, adding that all these have made the planned Lolo Inland Container Depot and Truck Park as very important.
Bello had during the visit informed the governor of the decision to construct the ICD and Truck Park in the state. The NSC CEO while noting that the state was strategically located said the two projects will stimulate the economy of the state with a lot of multiplier effect to the national economy.
In a similar move, the Anambra State government has begun deepening its partnership with farmers to further strategise on measures geared toward making the state "the food basket of the nation". Governor Willie Obiano said this during a meeting with rice farmers at the Governor's Lodge, Amawbia.
The farmers across the Rice Value Chain were gathered from the 21 Local Government Areas within the state for the crucial meeting. The governor, while briefing them said his vision was to boost rice yield per hectare, so as to add to the rice production capacity of the state.
He noted that his administration's "vision remains to produce more commercial quantity to supersede consumption capacity. "Anambra is on the verge of exporting rice, in addition to other vegetables it had already started exporting, as it will boost job creation and revenue generation.
"The state government intends to realise this through the provision of high-yielding varieties, assisting in bringing in more people into rice production and helping with land clearing" he said, adding that said his government had evolved plans to phase out local millers.
"This can only be done when an agreement has been brokered between the local producers and the mechanised millers on the standard price for off take of paddy," Obiano stated further.