Rice farmers in Kwara State have expressed mixed feelings over the harvest outlook this year. Those who spoke with our correspondent lamented the high prices of farm inputs and services affecting the process and cultivation of rice negatively in the state.
Rice is majorly grown in large quantities in the northern part of the state, even as the central and southern parts also have visible presence of farmers.
Recently, Kwara was reported to have joined the leading states in rice production in Nigeria with its production of over 102,000 metric tonnes output during wet and dry seasons last year. Also, 40,000 metrics tonnes were contributed to the rice pyramid recently unveiled by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
It was learnt that many wealthy business-oriented individuals, youths and women in the state have since then tried to tap into the rice business but are being hampered by the challenges facing the sector.
Mrs Elizabeth Watsan Ndako, a rice farmer from Lade in Pategi Local Government Area said, “We are managing because we do not have enough money to do what is right. Rice farming is a capital-intensive business that requires capital investment to make the necessary gains, apart from feeding ourselves.
“The rainy season did not start on time this year but people in the uplands have started planting, unlike the FADAMA areas where they are just doing clearing and preparing for planting.”
Mrs Ndako, who said she owned five hectares of land for rice, added that she had started making ridges as they didn’t have tractors due to cost and rent price, which had increased the cost of cultivation.
“In our area (Kwara North), one hectre of ridges costs nothing less than N60,000, which is not even part of the cost for clearing the land. Each person that will help you to plant will charge you N2,000 for two hours of work, and you will need 20 of them, which makes it N40,000, yet they may not finish half a hectare before the two hours elapse.
“Things are very costly now. A bag of raw local rice goes for N20,000 per 70 kg, but in the past you could get it at N16,000,” she said.
She added that the challenges they faced ranged from lack of tractors, fertilisers, chemicals and finance to improving farming, apart from lack of rainfall and insecurity.
“If we get cheaper fertiliser and organic manure things will be different, but they are very costly now. A bag of NPK fertiliser and Urea is now N22,000. How many people can afford that? We are scared about the harvest outlook already, except urgent steps are taken by the government,” she added.
Another rice farmer from Ilorin East in Kwara Central, Hajiya Fumilayo Lawal, said the planting season for rice commenced in June but they were yet to plant due to some teething challenges, with financial issue most paramount.
“Rice planting is capital-intensive and requires special land. But hiring or getting a tractor now has been an issue because operators have continuously lamented the soaring price of diesel, which is seriously affecting us. After we managed to cultivate the land despite the challenges, spraying is another major issue.
“My women group (20 of us), controls 30 hectares of land in Agbeyangi and another 20 hectares in Odoore in Oke-Oyi. We have prepared the nursery and just to transplant, but seedlings are not easy to come by.
“Transplant is expensive but more profitable, and we are looking for financial assistance. Planting one hectare of rice now will cost you about N250,000.
“Harvest outlook for us this year is not looking good because we may not get our expectations in harvest and sales per hectares,” she added.
Speaking on the issue, the chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Kwara State chapter Ahmed Saba said, “We have mobilised wet season farmers in virtually all the local government areas of Kwara State for rice farming. And we recently got good seeds from FADAMA and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
“The challenge we are having is the high price of farm inputs like fertilisers, herbicides, and equipment like sprayers. The most disturbing thing is that they are not available despite the price hike. This is also affecting other crops, not only rice. This is a big challenge now that a large number of people have been mobilised.
“Our outlook for harvest this year is going to be good because we are expecting the quantity produced to be high. We are going to harvest, but the price will be the issue. For instance, what I grow now in rice is more than that of last year. Others who were not hitherto in the business are also coming in, but the price of finishing product will be high, although we are expecting the quantity to rise.
“With the look of things, local rice, which is now sold at N16,000 per 75kg bag in the open market, may go for N20,000 after harvest. It means the finished product will go for N27,000 per bag; and we can’t compete with international market again,” he said.