Nigeria is beginning to break the jinx of decades of dependence on imported food. Compatriots should, therefore, arise and resist those who want to give false impression that no change is happening. It is time to shake off the disappointment of many years of unfulfilled promises from past governments and embrace the prospects of one which has made significant impacts within two years, changing the outlook of food production in such a short time.
In the past one week, I have been confronted with barrage of questions from the media on rice importation, insinuations that rice transformation agenda may have been dropped and unfounded anxieties over a possibility that Nigeria may experience supply shortage in rice. I saw reasons to believe that those business people involved in rice importation were at work, and might be up to a spin, trying to use falsehood and scaremongering to rally Nigerians behind them. Their timing was clearly wrong and it appears they are insensitive to the silent revolution going on in the fields of rice cultivation.
Under the ongoing agricultural transformation agenda (ATA), the tremendous achievement in rice production goes beyond what can be wished away as millions of additional metric tonnes of food are added to local supplies and rice plays big in this increase. The blessing in disguise was the flood disaster of 2012 that expedited federal government’s intervention in local production of food when the panicky, populist and ephemeral macho style of responding to emergencies was avoided.
The political will of President Goodluck Jonathan and his support for the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, led the way for the successful dry season rice production that is fast becoming a norm in Nigeria’s agricultural calendar and rapidly improving the nation’s food balance sheet. The year 2012 marked a watershed and proved Nigeria’s capability to produce two crops of rice per year as demonstrated in ten northern states of Niger, Kebbi, Kogi, Zamfara, Sokoto, Jigawa, Katsina, Bauchi, Kano and Gombe.
For the 2012 wet season and 2012/2013 dry season, a total of 20,161MT of improved seeds, 40,322 MT of NPK fertiliser and 20,161 MT of urea fertiliser given to 403, 222 farmers became increased six times in 2013 wet season and 2013/2014 dry season to 2,598,113 as inputs redeemed doubled to 40,105MT of improved seeds, 160,422 MT of NPK, and 129,906MT of urea, with added benefits of 358,993 rural jobs in the 2012 wet season and 2012/2013 dry season. The ripples spread across input suppliers, farm labourers, transporters, warehouse operators and others.
The rice policy is good, is for our national interest and is capable of transforming Nigeria into a global player as an exporting nation. In addition to the economic impact, the food security impact on the rural communities is noteworthy. With the benefit of hindsight now, the decision to embark on such an ambitious programme has proved worthwhile as this has restored hope and brightened business prospects.
About N30 billion spent by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on the Growth Enhancement Support so far has helped Nigerian rice farmers to increase their output by over 2.8 million MT of rice paddy, bringing us nearer to self-sufficiency.
Interventions under the agricultural transformation agenda in the 2012 wet season and 2012/2013 dry season led to an additional 1.409 million metric tons (MT) of paddy or 916,137 MT of milled rice from 403,222 hectares of cultivated land.
The 2013 wet season and 2013/2014 dry season output, originally estimated at 2.96 million MT of paddy and expected to produce 1.92 MT of milled rice from 802,108 hectares of land, is proving to be an underestimation as reports from the field recently showed that many farmers, in addition to the free seeds they received from the federal government, planted additional fields this year with the seeds they saved last year. From the fields in Jigawa, Kebbi and Zamfara, there are feelers of bumper harvest.
Producing rice worth N149.512 billion gross value of paddy and net value of N79.691 billion during original attempt was a no mean feat as 751,248 rural jobs, were created by local rice production, while gross value doubled to N313,784,882,555 and net value doubled to N175,020,285,055 the following year.
These had strong economic impact on the lives of farmers, unemployed youths and agro-dealers, in forms of increased household income, employment, and improved livelihoods arising from an inflow of N254 billion from the 2012 and 2013 wet and dry rice season farming.
The Nigerian local rice industry depended entirely on small scale mills until 2008 when the first large integrated mill commenced operation. Since 2010, the growth in the number millers has increased, both for small millers and active large integrated mill operators. The small millers have also improved to products that could match the quality of imported rice, overcoming deficiencies in critical quality attributes, including a lack of uniformity, flavour, odour, high content of broken grains and presence of stones and other extraneous materials.
A seven-fold increase in milling capacity of paddy rice in the country within two years has been matched with encouraging responses from large scale millers. There are now a total of thirteen new integrated rice mills with parboiling facility and total combined paddy milling capacity of 534,000MT, all coming up under the interventions in the rice value chains, buoyed by the realisation of the increase in paddy production.
Olukayode Oyeleye is on firstname.lastname@example.org