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Adding value to rice through processing in Nasarawa State

Nigerian farmers have been attracted to producing this food crop to feed their families, especially as it is a “must” for ceremonies and the most…

Nigerian farmers have been attracted to producing this food crop to feed their families, especially as it is a “must” for ceremonies and the most used to honour persons well respected and revered. It is, thus, common place to find this food item on tables for guests just as it has become children’s favourite.
Sadly, local production has fallen short of national demand as out of the five million tonnnes consumed annually, only three million tonnes is estimated to be produced by local farmers. The implication is that about two million tonnes are imported into the country.
Nasarawa State is a fertile ground for the growth of almost all varieties of crops. The state can, as well, provide a chunk of the rice needs of Nigeria if deliberate efforts are made to motivate farmers so that the growth of this “darling” crop is promoted in order to feed Nigerians and rake in the foreign revenue through its export.
 While Nasarawa State contributes a great deal to the quantity of rice produced locally, it suffers from poor revenue accruing to its farmers due to the low value of the crop resulting from the poor quality of the rice. This situation is blamed on the fact that “neither the farmers nor the processors have adequate knowledge, equipment and technique to process the rice after harvest”.
The result is that the quality of rice is low with high percentage of broken grains due to inappropriate drying and milling and inability to remove stones in the milling process that have been mixed during harvest and drying.  
The effect of this is that the price of domestic rice is low and farmers are not encouraged to produce more. In the end, there is high post-harvest loss and low income for rice farmers and increase in the level of poverty in the rural areas.
Adding value to locally produced rice to enable it compete favourably with imported rice and improve income of local farmers has been the greatest challenge of governments. This value addition can only come through improved rice milling technology to suit consumers’ taste.  
It is this challenge that the Nasarawa State Government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) set out to overcome, when Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, in the company of Japanese officials inaugurated the Lafia Rice Incubation Plant, a pilot Rice-Post Harvest Processing and Marketing project on 24 February 2014.
The Lafia plant is a collaborative project between Nasarawa State Government and the Japanese Government under the JICA programme. JICA is also collaborating with Niger State on this project. This programme is tagged the Rice-Post Harvest Processing and Marketing Project (RIPMAPP).
Prior to the commissioning of the Lafia incubation plant, Nasarawa State Government committed over N65million to its construction in addition to releasing N12.5million for the training and capacity building of target beneficiaries. Among those trained are 29 ADP staff, 92 farmers, 79 par-boilers, 49 millers and 202 traders/marketers. The state coordinator of the programme attended training in Japan while some ADP staff attended training in Uganda on rice cultivation methods and research methods.
Allahnana is a Director with Nasarawa State Ministry of Information, Lafia.

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