• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

Rising significance of Imota Rice Mill

Bago laments bad poor state of Niger rice mills, pledges solution

Back in August, 2017 the piece of cheering news came from the President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN, Aminu Goronyo that the annual rice production in Nigeria increased from 5.5 million tonnes in 2015 to 5.8 million tonnes in 2017. That was a plus for the Muhammadu Buhari administration for sustaining determined efforts of the previous Goodluck Jonathan‘s administration in the field of agriculture, as propelled by the vision of Dr. Adesina Adewunmi, who was then the Minster in charge.

Though Nigerians spent about N1bn on imported rice consumption in 2015 such spending has drastically reduced as consumption had increased because of increased local production of the commodity. “The consumption rate now is 7.9 million tonnes and the production rate has increased to 5.8 tonnes per annum,’’ Goronyo said.

This improvement then was as a result of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) with a total of 12 million rice producers and four million hectares of FADAMA rice land. There is currently a workable linkage between Small holder farmers and large scale processors leading to increased output. This has also improved on capacity utilisation of processors.

Upping the ante, the former governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode and his Kebbi State counterpart, Atiku Bagudu came up with the now popular Lake rice. The question then was how to sustain the laudable initiative, across the country.

It is gratifying therefore, to note that just as the Buhari administration has sustained the vision of the previous administration on rice production, the current Governor Sanwo-Olu administration of Lagos state has done same with the Imota rice mill. Back in May, 2020 the Lagos State Government, reassured the good people of the state that its multi-billion Naira, 32-metric tonnes- per-hour rice mill at Imota, will be completed and delivered before the end of the year.

That statement came from the state’s Commissioner for Agriculture, GbolahanLawal while highlighting activities to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration. According to Lawal the rice mill had attained 80 per cent completion level compared to 35 per cent when the administration assumed office in May 2019.

On its expected production capacity and its economic impact, he assured that the mill when operational will ensure a steady supply of freshly processed rice of about 2.4 million bags of 50kg per annum to Lagosians. That is in addition to creating over 250,000 jobs in both the upstream and downstream sectors of the rice value chain.

With regards to the fears being nursed about the supply of paddy rice the government assured that effective efforts had been put into backward integration along the rice value chain. In specific term, the effort included the identification of farmers’ groups in conjunction with other states to cultivate the required amount of paddy and the provision of inputs such as seeds, fertiliser and irrigation facilities that are applicable to the farmers.

“To meet the paddy requirement of the mill, we have undertaken a backward integration in the form of collaboration with other states like Southwestern states, Kwara, Sokoto, Benue, Borno and Kebbi.

“This will be done leveraging on the Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with the rice mill as the off-taker of the products,” Lawal said.

Furthermore, the commissioner explained that the Agriculture-based Youth Empowerment Scheme (Agric-YES) had been revamped in such way that a total of 15,000 youth and women would be trained and empowered. The beneficiaries would be trained in the various agricultural value chain such as poultry, aquaculture, rice, piggery and vegetable production by the year 2023.

“The Agric-YES is an initiative of the Lagos state government which targets to encourage youth and women who are interested in agriculture to embrace the sector.

“One of its major objectives is to achieve a significant reduction in unemployment, create more jobs and wealth, and significantly enhance food security in Lagos state by the year 2023.

“It also seeks to promote the state’s target of producing at least 25 per cent of the food consumed by residents of the state before the end of the year 2025,” the commissioner said.

The aim is to rise to meet the challenges of up scaling food production in the state by treating agriculture as both a business and development platforms by using strategic partners to stimulate investment in the state. Such would cushion the effects of increasing population of the state that has put pressure on the state’s food security, supply mechanism and available infrastructure.

All these moves align with the T.H.E.M.E.S developmental agenda of the Sanwo-Olu administration which are anchored on ensuring ensure food security and improved nutrition for Lagosians; wealth and employment generation with inclusive participation of youth and women.

While consumers and the stake holders wait for the completion of Imota Rice Mill, it is important to learn from the past to ensure that this vision is sustained, no matter which political party is in power.

According to agric experts local rice cultivation should provide sustainable wellbeing for producers, processors and marketers in Nigeria. The truth however, is that local rice production does not satisfy the totality of consumer demand in the country. As at 2009, Nigeria was importing an average of 1.7 million tonnes of white rice annually, making the country as the world’s second-largest rice importer then. The cost of these rice imports represents a significant amount of lost earnings for the country in terms of jobs and income.

Way Forward:

Government should involve all the relevant stakeholders in decision making. The NCS apparently did not key into 100 per cent tariffs on imported brown and finished rice.

•It should see its 2015 target of self -sufficiency in rice production with 100 large scale integrated rice mills with a 2.1 mmt to its logical conclusion.

•Government should keep encouraging the private sector to invest in the sector as Domino Farms has done with $40 million dollars in Taraba State.

•It should however, provide the enabling environment of stable electric power supply and good access roads to reduce overhead costs on production and processing.

•It should be pro-active in taking steps to reduce losses from flooding.

•It should embark on massive publicity to encourage the patronage of locally produced rice, staring with government officials, as it has been doing with the cassava-wheat composite bread.

•Government should carry members of the Rice Millers, Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria, RIMIDAN along in its policy formulation and implementation.

•There should be judicious use of all loans taken for the rice projects.

•Government should adequately fund and equip the Nigeria Customs service in both human capacity building and equipment to discharge their duties.

•All staff of NCS found wanting in the discharge of their duties should be summarily dealt with.

If done, Nigerians will sooner than later say a hearty ‘good bye’ to imported rice. Meanwhile, it is hoped that the Imota Rice Mill project will be seen to its logical conclusion, to boost both food and job security and reposition Lagos state as the Centre of Excellence for other states to emulate.