The National President, National Rice Producers, Processors, Millers and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NARPPMMAN), Mr. Mustapha Amadu, in this interview shared his thoughts on the challenges, opportunities in rice production and his plans to use the association to transform the nation's rice value chain to create employment for graduates, market women and widows. Excerpts:
The Government has been focusing on rice production and as a player in the industry, does Nigeria have the capacity to produce rice?
Nigeria has the capacity to produce rice and not only to feed Nigerians but to also export. We have a lot of places where we can cultivate rice in Nigeria and if government is serious in supporting the farmers and all the complete rice value chain so that we can improve in the production of rice in Nigeria and as we are now today, if our farmers can be assisted to go into their farms both dry and wet seasons, I believe within a year, we will be able to feed ourselves as well as export to other countries.
What areas do local rice farmers need assistance from the federal government?
Actually the federal government is trying through the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) and we want them to improve so that the programme can be sustained. In the rice value chain, we have the farmers, the producers, miller processors and the marketers. This is the complete rice value chain where we can produce very clean rice to a very good standard where we can eat in Nigeria and also export to other neighbouring countries and the world at large. If we are properly assisted by the government, I think our millers, processors and the other stakeholders in the rice industry will improve too so that we can produce standard rice for Nigerians.
Given the current level of rice production in the country, can Nigeria produce enough rice to meet the growing population estimated to hit 264 million people by 2030?
Yes, if we can be properly assisted, funded and it would require time and if we are given the opportunity to go into rice farming at the right time, I am telling you that with proper supervision and management, we can feed this nation. We have the processors and we have the farmers and they are on ground and if we work with the real farmers we can get what we want. Let us go back to the rural areas like places like Taraba, Adamawa, Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano and Niger States. These few states that have mentioned to you can feed this nation and even export the rice to other countries because we have the places on ground and we have the determined farmers that are ready to work. The only thing we want now is for the federal government to encourage them and show them how to farm, give them the necessary support and I am assuring you that we can be the best in rice production.
Do you think the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) ABP is effective?
It is working and it is effective. It has helped the farmers and it has helped the country because this scheme has helped in the production of rice as we are now trying to feed ourselves and we also want to commend CBN because the Governor has plans for our farmers and we are really appreciating him and will also like to encourage our farmers to do more because with their help Nigeria will be able to feed itself whole also come out of poverty.
What are some of the challenges hindering your members and rice production in the country?
We need support both for the processors, farmers, millers and marketers. We need support of the federal government so that we can improve on what we have on ground. Some of our members have small drilling machines, modular machines, the processors, the market women in the markets all need support so that we can move from where we are and we are also ready to bring Nigeria out of poverty because we have a lot of programmes for youths, widows and women to encourage them to go into agriculture, marketing, processing so that we can all join hands together to boost the country's value chain
Nigeria still prefers foreign rice despite the fact that local rice is still more nutritional. What is your advice to consumers who still prefer foreign rice to local rice?
This is the problem we have in Nigeria. Beside most of our people believes that foreign rice is better than local rice, but I am assuring you that with this development we have on ground and the present administration, most of our people are now consuming local rice. I am also telling you that local rice is far better than foreign rice because the local rice we are seeing in the market is your local man here that is cultivating that rice, you know his farm, you know where he is cultivating the rice and you know the time he is cultivating the rice and the time he brings the rice to the market. So you are sure that this rice is pure and you are consuming natural rice, not artificial. Nigerian rice is better than foreign rice, but our people have penchant for foreign things and I do not know why, but with this development and the encouragement we are getting from the federal government, most of our people are now consuming local rice.
What are some of the achievements you have recorded as the president of the association?
We are a newly formed association and the association is a brainchild of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and we were just elected about two months ago. We have our national headquarters in Utako, Abuja and under my leadership, we have the structures of all the 36 states and in all the 774 local governments across the federation and we also have about 150 farmers registered with us, we have millers registered, we have processors registered and marketers registered with us and for now, we want to see how we can partner with many agencies so that we can help our members and we are also sensitising our members on the activities of the association so as to bring the complete rice value chain to standards for Nigeria.
What makes your association different from other associations?
Some people think association is just to come and enjoy participation. This association was created by the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment and it is a mega association. We have RIFAN, Mega rice farmers, RIMAN, rice growers. We have about 14 different associations amalgamated into one umbrella under the control of NAPMAN. We have all merged together under the ministry and that is why the name is National Rice Producers, Processors, Millers and Marketers Association of Nigeria. We have all these bodies in the association because we want to see how we can bring a change, we want to see how we can bring that change and we want to see how we can bring the complete Nigeria rice value chain to standard so that is why we have all come together under the federal ministry and we are all represented in each state and local government from down to up is being represented by this association.
Do you support the need to check the influx of smuggled rice into the country?
We are in support of that because this is why we are having shortages of food in our market, because most of the marketers are going there to purchase the produce and take them out, but in our association we are sensitising our members on the need to utilise what we have in Nigeria, because we have the farmers, and if we produce, we have the processors, we have the millers, we have the marketers and when they produce we have the marketers that will buy the produce from the farmers and when they buy we have the millers who will mill the rice to standards, so there is no need for us to take our rice somewhere because we have all the equipment that will mill the rice to standards in Nigeria because some of our marketers are in that activity to smuggle our rice outside and that is why we are having issues. Some of these marketers give money to small holder farmers in the village during planting season and after harvesting, they come back to collect a certain batch of the money they have given to the farmers and this is causing a lot of problems and these farmers have no money to go to his farm and if anybody comes to give him money he would gladly collect it and that is why we are calling on the federal government to improve on the ABP and also the associations too as it would help us to address the issue of smuggling in the country.
Going forward, what are some of the plans you have for the association?
We have different rice association in the complete rice value chain, and for this association, we want to reduce the rate of unemployment amongst our youths. We want to assist the widows and the market women and we also have a programme that will encourage graduates that will come and join us so that we will go back to agriculture. We also want to look for farms from our various state governments and in each state we need not less than 300,000 to 5,00,000 hectares where we will gather our graduates, train them, give them inputs and afford land to farm in that land so that we can reduce that redundancy and each state. We want to have at least 300 to 500 graduates where we can train them on agriculture, so also, we want to encourage our women leaders and marketers most especially those in the rice value chain. We will encourage them, train them on milling activities and assist them where necessary so that we will also improve the quality of locally produced rice and the same thing with our major millers as we are working seriously to see how we can improve their milling activities and standards to produce quality rice for Nigerians and for export. We have a lot of programmes and we are just starting and we are praying that our members will give us the full support, from the executive to the local so that we can achieve the desired end
How has insecurity affected the production of rice in the country?
It has affected farmers seriously most especially in Zamfara, Kebbi, Sokoto, Adamawa and Taraba. I am telling you that most of our farmers are not going to the farm because of issues of kidnapping and banditry, but despite the insecurity, we are still trying and our members are still trying and I believe in Nigeria that if we address this insecurity, we will be surprised with what we will be surprised about what will come out from Nigeria with regards to rice because insecurity has hampered farmers' productivity and it has taken us back seriously and we are appealing to the federal government, state government and security agencies to please add more efforts on what they are doing so that it would curtail the high level of insecurity in the country.