Nigeria is on the path of meeting its national requirement for rice through local production. This is in spite of insinuation by some people that there is shortage of paddy, a basis for their growing subtle agitation for rice importation. Such an agitation, if taken seriously, has a tendency to mislead, confuse and deceive Nigerians into believing that nothing is happening in addressing our perennial national rice shortage. The false assertions probably emanated from the fears of traders who have failed to recognise the rapid transformation of Nigeria from importing and trading culture to self-sufficiency in rice production.
Under the rice transformation agenda, the federal government, through the activities of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, is closer to meeting, in 2013, the projected target of replacing 2.1 million MT of rice we annually import. This is two years earlier than the 2015 earlier projected. Results from the field show that by 2013 we would have produced enough paddy, about 3.23 million MT, to give over two million MT of milled rice.
This is the first time ever that the federal government is supporting dry season in the northern part of Nigeria, an initiative that is receiving unprecedented response from the farmers who are rushing to rice production as a result of federal government’s support. Under the government intervention, beneficiaries receive free seeds and additional support in form of fertiliser. Fertiliser blending plants and importers provided large quantities of fertilisers far beyond the demand of Nigerian farmers and for the first time fertilisers were available in all the local government areas of Nigeria for farmers to buy. Fertiliser companies sold N15 billion worth of fertilisers directly to farmers, instead of to government, as was the case before the radical fertiliser sector reforms of the minister of agriculture and rural development, Akinwumi Adesina. Seed companies sold N1.5 billion of seeds directly to farmers.
After setting the target, Adesina, within the context of Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), in mid-2011 took the first practical steps, restructuring the input delivery arrangement by completely privatising and deregulating it. The ministry held several meetings with input providers, leading to agreements to produce 15,000 MT of Faro 44 and Faro 52 and large quantities of fertiliser.
Soft loan facilities were arranged and provided in commercial banks to facilitate the initiative. SEEDAN, the umbrella body of commercial seed producers, and fertiliser companies secured loan and embarked on massive production of improved seed and fertiliser for 2012 cropping season. By April 2012, 11,800 MT of Faro 44 and Faro 52 and small quantities of upland rice varieties were produced for free distribution to farmers who had almost lost the culture of the use of improved seed to enhance yield.
The 11,800 MT of seed planted 236,000 hectares of lowland rice and some hectares of upland rice in Ogun, Ekiti and Southern Kaduna States. At an average yield of 2.5 MT per hectare, 590,000 MT of paddy was produced in 2012 under ATA. It was estimated that another 200,000 hectares of rice were planted under different ecologies by subsistent farmers at low level technology. This in turn would give additional 400,000 MT at 2.0 ton per hectare.
Before the launching of rice transformation agenda, not up to three integrated mills were operating at the same time in Nigeria. But by December 2012, due to sensitisation efforts, 15 integrated mills were operating at the same time under private sector arrangement and by the third quarter of 2013, up to 25 such mills are expected to be in operation across the rice growing ecologies in Nigeria.
The milling capacity of these mills has been estimated at over 850,000 MT per annum, while there is a plan to add 40 mills by the government, to be completely privatised. By December 2013, the total milling capacity of all the integrated mills will be over 2.0 million MT per annum. They will be producing high quality rice comparable with the highest grade of imported rice.
To augment paddy production, the initiative on dry season paddy production initiated by the minister of agriculture emerged as a national policy on food security in response to the rapidly increasing number of high quality rice mills which are putting pressure on paddy supply. Dubbed “double up rice production”, the goal is to produce rice in both main and dry seasons to meet national rice paddy needs. According to Adesina, who works with relentless passion as an agriculture evangelist, “Every suitable land for rice will be cultivated across Nigeria. We will not allow unscrupulous rice importers to derail Mr. President’s policy for self-sufficiency in rice. We will feed ourselves and do so with pride.”
Oyeleye is special assistant, Media and Strategy, to the minister of agriculture and rural development.