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OPINION

 Where Is The Rice? – A Farmer’s Perspective

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This is the question on the lips of the average Nigerian you meet on the street, anytime they are greeted with the statistics or news of the progress the country has made as regards the increase in rice production.

As a farmer and one who primarily cultivates rice, I am to a large extent abreast with the development in this subsector and acquainted with the cheers and jeers, knocks and pats that the Federal Government’s rice revolution has received. For every bag of locally produced rice that you take from the shelf, for every grain that you eat, there is so much that goes into it both by the government and the farmer that cultivates it.

Credit must be given to the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan on the way they began with the revolution, but the knock to that was the lack of political will to limit its importation (which waivers were given to the importers who were largely politicians or their cronies). Though of the same or sometimes higher standard, the locally produced rice couldn’t compete favourably with the imported rice with respect to price.

The Question now is “why can’t the Nigerian farmer compete”?

a lot of factors come into play.

  • The average cost of input per hectare for a farmer in Nigeria and his counterpart in Asia cannot be compared as most of the farm inputs are not locally produced here.
  • Mechanisation is another factor, according to a 2017 PwC Report, only about 25,000 Tractors are currently available in the country, a far cry from the expected number that will bring about appreciable mechanisation to small holder farmers put at about 110,000,000 by the NBS in 2017.
  • An inadequate market for the rice paddy as only a few high capacity rice mills were available to offtake the cultivated rice, thus leaving the farmer discouraged.

Nigeria in the last four years has greatly increased the production of rice. As a farmer whose only crop is rice I can attest to that. Nigeria’s rice consumption in 2017 stood at 6.4 million metric tons and what we have achieved in 2018 is 4million metric tons.

The answers to the question of why the rice is still expensive are:

  • that we still have a shortfall of over 2 million metric tons, this margin is enough to feed a country with One-third of Nigeria’s rice consumption. We can bridge this margin by;
  1. helping to reduce the cost of farm inputs. Though the cost of fertilizer has reduced by half, it is only one of the many inputs which includes seeds, herbicides and pesticides.
  2. mechanization is still far from the smallholder farmers. More so, extension service is not reaching them as well yet.
  • Trunk C road that connects the rural areas where we have large percentage of these farms.

These will increase the average yield per hectare for the farmer and in no small measure bridge the gap.

b.) We may not also be able to find the rice yet because our policy drivers are largely ‘paper based experts’ who are not in touch with the realities of the Nigeria environment and market dynamics. Let me give a scenario;

I know of a couple of smallholder farmer’s groups who applied for funding and got all other approvals for one of the present administration’s social investment programmes in the area of rice production. But the fund was not approved for disbursement until the last week of August, for a crop that planting is not supposed to exceed the second week of July (for rain fed). This is only one of the many cases of discrepancies that come from matching policy with execution.

For local production to meet and surpass our demand, there is great need to do more in the area of prompt execution of plans and programmes. A lot of the need for some of these are time bound and may not be necessary afterwards.

Because we do not have any shortfall of frameworks, policies and resources (whether human or natural) but the bulk of it falls on the desk of the lieutenants whose responsibility is to give approvals and instruction to the foot soldiers for a seamless positive chain reaction. It is therefore important that efficient monitoring and evaluation is carried out as it concerns the policies and programmes in rice.

 

KEDONO MOMOH is a rice farmer and heads Protofos Farms Limited with administrative office in Abuja. The company cultivated 250 Hectares of rice last year in Obi LGA Nasarawa State and is currently working on their 500 Hectares of rice farm in both Benue and Nasarawa State this year.

 

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