Local producers move to bridge rice production

Indigenous operators are exploring measures to bridge rice production gap in Nigeria put at 2.3 million metric tonnes, OKECHUKWU NNODIM reports

In 2016, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation stated that Nigeria imported 2.3 million metric tonnes of rice, which was about half the country’s estimated requirement during the review period.

Recent data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development put the total demand for rice in Nigeria at about 5.5 million MT a year, of which about 3.3 million MT is produced locally, leaving a shortfall of about 2.2 million MT which is being imported. These validate the 2016 report of the UNFAO.

Although stakeholders in the rice value chain believe that the drop in importation of rice over the past months validates the work of indigenous agricultural operators, they stated that it was important to review the progress made so far in Nigeria’s journey to achieving self-sufficiency in rice production and identify areas where more effort was required.

“However we look at the progress so far made, challenges remain,” the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, Aliyu Abdulhameed, said.

Abdulhameed presented a paper entitled, ‘The Imperative of Public Private Partnership in Achieving the Rice Revolution in Nigeria,’ at the recently concluded AgroNigeria High Level Rice Conference 2018, which held in Abuja. The theme of the conference was ‘Self-sufficiency in Rice Production: A must!’

The NIRSAL boss added, “Sub-optimal processing capacities, inefficient storage facilities, unavailability of quality inputs and other production-enhancing infrastructure are factors delaying Nigeria’s self-sufficiency in food production.”

“Whichever way we like to look at the cup – half full, or half empty – there is, without doubt, a lot of work that needs to be done. Interestingly, the production gap that we see today of 2.3 million metric tonnes is a moving target.”

He explained that the demand for rice in Nigeria was increasing at a much faster rate than in other West African countries due to speedy population growth, rising income levels, rapid urbanisation and associated changes in family occupational structures.

“Every year, the target shifts, and the journey to self-sufficiency further elongates,” Abdulhameed observed.

He, however, expressed hope that stakeholders will come up with practical solutions whether from the just concluded conference or from other forums that will help match or outrun population growth with production.

NIRSAL is a public limited company established by the Central Bank of Nigeria to catalyse the flow of finance and investment into fixed agricultural value chains.

Abdulhameed said the role of his organisation in the country’s rice revolution was to facilitate the finance and investment required for the next leap on project, and to secure all such financiers and investors with NIRSAL’s Credit Risk Guarantee, Specialised Agricultural Insurance, and Project Monitoring, Reporting and Remediation Offices.

“These apparatuses ensure the right use of investor funds, the close monitoring of projects throughout their life cycles and the provision of adequate compensation wherever and whenever losses occur. In short, they preserve the business relationships we have built and continue to build with public and private sector investors,” he said.

He stated that no fewer than five concepts and financing models had been developed by NIRSAL to inject fresh impetus into agricultural value chains that would suit and boost the rice cause in Nigeria.

Abdulhameed said, “NIRSAL is also a participating financial institution in the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, a programme that was created to provide systematic input and output markets for smallholder farmers nationwide, thereby boosting agricultural production.

“With ABP, NIRSAL has rolled out its full institutional capacity to drive the success of the programme. Under the ABP, NIRSAL has assisted 27,000 smallholder farmers with loans of approximately N3.4bn, largely in Kebbi State. The ABP is indeed the major driver of Nigeria’s rice revolution.”

He added, “For us to leapfrog agriculture as the main driver of the economy, we need human, equipment, technology and finance capitals to optimise and properly harness the opportunities we have with land, labour, water and market.

“It is our belief that the synergy between NIRSAL, a private sector-led policy tool of the CBN and other public-private institutions will help to solve the challenges in rice production in Nigeria and push us further along the journey to sufficiency in rice production.”

Announcing further measures being put in place in order to attain self-sufficiency in local rice production, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, stated that 14 new rice mills were being expected in Nigeria in few weeks.

The mills, which according to Ogbeh will attract N250bn worth of investments to the sector, will be used by millers across the country to help reduce the 2.3 million MT local rice production gap in Nigeria.

The Federal Government had in a statement said that Thailand had commenced moves to establish rice mills in Nigeria, following the drastic reduction in the importation of rice into Nigeria by over 90 per cent.

Although Ogbeh did not name those who are to establish the 14 new rice mills, he told participants at the recent AgroNigeria Conference that the move would attract hundreds of billions of naira to Nigeria’s rice value chain.

The minister said, “There are presently 21 large integrated rice mills with a total processing capacity of 1.22 million metric tonnes yearly and spreading across the country, from Kano to Enugu, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Anambra, Edo, Nasarawa, Benue, Kwara, Jigawa, Niger and Kogi states. The challenges associated with local rice which has discouraged consumers, especially when compared to imported rice has been overcome.

“Today, several integrated local rice mills have their milled rice in the Nigerian market and consumer demand and preference for local rice has risen due to better quality and taste compared to imported rice. Home-grown international grade rice can be found across Nigerian markets and a total of 14 mills will soon come on board.”

Ogbeh, whose speech was read by a director, added, “This is expected to provide additional investment of N250bn in the rice processing sub-sector. This will also attract a savings of $300m from import substitution through local processing. The Rice Processors Association of Nigeria has made investments in the excess of N300bn with upcoming investments expected to hit N250bn.

“RIPAN members currently have a direct workforce of 5,000 skilled Nigerians including women. As off-takers of rice paddy, RIPAN has created jobs for over five million rice farmers out of the existing 11 million rice farmers in Nigeria. The integrated rice mills have also employed about two million unskilled workers. Nigeria’s rice import bill has dropped appreciably by over 90 per cent.”

He said Nigeria was the largest producer of rice in West Africa and the second largest importer of rice in the region.

The minister stated that of the over 5.1 million metric tonnes of rice consumed annually, Nigeria produces a little above three million MT, leaving a demand gap of over 2.1 million MT which could only be met through importation from rice exporting countries.

Ogbeh observed that in the past three years, paddy production had seen exponential growth, reaching 6.9 million MT in 2016, which represented 4.14 million MT of milled rice, and 8.019 million MT, or 4.81 million MT of milled rice in 2017.

According to him, Nigeria is moving towards self-sufficiency in rice production and is on track to achieving this by 2020.

He stated that in 2009, Nigeria could boast of only one integrated rice mill and by 2017, the country had over 17 integrated rice processing mills with a milling capacity of 600,000MT a year.

To sustain the momentum of the present growth, Ogbeh said, “Government shall continue to provide conducive environment to rice farmers and millers in the area of ensuring adequate agro-chemicals, fertilisers, land development and irrigation facilities, mechanisation, modern extension services, power supply, access to good roads, farmlands and favourable pricing. Essentially, forestalling the illegal activities of smugglers across Nigeria’s borders remains a priority.”

The Governor of Kebbi State, who doubles as Chairman, Presidential Initiative on Rice, Atiku Bagudu, said operators in the rice value chain “must appreciate the fact that the cost of production in countries we are competing with is cheaper than the production cost for the same commodity in Nigeria. This needs to be addressed in order to ensure sustainability.”

Bagudu, however, stated that the price of local rice would soon drop to N 10,000 per 50kg bag, in contrast to the current rate of about N16, 000.

According to him, Nigeria has the capacity to tap into the 600-700 million MT global rice market as rice is grown in all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

He said stakeholders must cooperate to sustain the growth already recorded in the sector, and urged the Federal Government to emulate Japan which imposed a 777 per cent tariff on imported rice as against the current 50 per cent rate on imported rice in Nigeria.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, AgroNigeria, a body of indigenous agro-dealers, Richard-Mark Mbaram, noted that the progress being recorded in the production of rice within the country was being threatened by the smuggling of the commodity via countries that shared borders with Nigeria.

He stated that indigenous rice producers want the Federal Government to confront and read a riot act to the Republics of Benin, Niger and Cameroon over the smuggling of rice from the neighbouring countries into Nigeria.

Mbaram said, “Yes, there has been progress thus far in rice production in Nigeria. However, we have serious systemic challenges that are facing this effort and the number one is smuggling. We know what the countries around us are up to. The figures they have for rice coming into their countries are more than the population which some of them even have.

“Countries that share borders with us are stockpiling rice which they try to smuggle into Nigeria. Nigeria needs to take definite and radical measures. There’s no point playing big brother on issues like this anymore. It is about our life as a nation. It is about the businesses of our citizens.”

Stakeholders in the rice value chain including Stallion Group, Notore, Afex, Umza, Olam and the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, also stated that the government must show enough concern to investors about the issue.

culled from punchng.com

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