Stakeholders urge government to tackle challenges facing rice production – Survey
Stakeholders in the agriculture sector have urged the government to find solutions to the challenges facing rice cultivation and processing so as to enable Nigeria to attain self-sufficiency in rice production.
The stakeholders, who spoke to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a recent survey, listed the challenges as inadequate capital, obsolete technology and dearth of farm inputs, among others.
Mr Ogunsina Solomon, General Secretary of Global Feeders Farmers in Oyo State, said that lack of capital, technology and manpower as well as negative activities of middlemen were the major constraints hindering efforts to get bagged rice to consumers.
Solomon, a rice farmer, however, said that exporting the made-in-Nigeria rice to other African countries would boost the national economy, spur youths to partake in rice production and add value to farmers’ income.
Going from the general to the specifics, Mr Bode Adenekan, the Chairman of Rice Farmers Association (RIFAN) in Ogun, said that the major constraints facing rice farmers in the state was paucity of finance and farm inputs.
He said that land development challenges, non-availability of improved rice seedlings and bird infestation were also part of the challenges.
Adenekan, who is also a rice miller, said that rice production in Ogun was still undertaken via traditional methods – right from cultivation to harvesting and processing stages — thereby limiting rice yields from the state.
He also cited lack of access to good road networks and weak linkages for marketing of rice as some of the major drawbacks.
Mr Elijah Adewale, the Chairman of the Wasimi/Lafenwa branch of Rice Millers Association in Abeokuta, said that there was no cooperative arrangement between rice millers in Ogun.
“We have been operating almost in isolation of one another; we don’t have cooperative societies and that is why the government cannot easily attend to us,’’ he said.
Adewale said that most of the rice milling plants in the state were quite old, adding that rice mills were not equipped with destoners to sieve out stones from the rice being milled.
In Kebbi, a major rice-producing state in the country, Alhaji Abdullahi Zuru, the General Manager Labana Rice Mill, said that a major factor limiting rice processing at the mill, which was established at the cost of N5 billion, was erratic power supply.
“Another constraint is inefficient border control and activities of smugglers who import rice and export paddy rice; this hinders local production and sales of rice at profitable levels,’’ he said.
Zuru blamed the inability of rice millers to supply more rice to Nigerian consumers to the high cost of paddy and the activities of smugglers, adding that this had somewhat forced the price of local rice to be at par with that of imported rice.
He also said that some farmers were fond of selling paddy to exporters and smugglers.
Besides, Zuru identified the paucity of high-quality improved seedlings as a major hindrance to rice production in the country.
In Sokoto State, Malam Nura Attajiri, the state Chairman, Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Rice Millers Association, disclosed that the rice millers in the state were producing below capacity.
His words: “Although there are 255 millers, with machines having installed capacity of producing about 350 tonnes of milled rice per annum in the state, their output is just about 150 tonnes per annum.
“This shortfall is caused by the various challenges facing rice millers, which include poor electricity supply, inadequate funds to procure paddy for processing, among others.
“We have been looking into how the government and other relevant agencies can assist millers in rice production through various intervention programmes.
“Moreover, the Federal Government’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, launched in Kebbi State, did not include SME millers but only integrated millers, while Sokoto State has no integrated millers,’’ he said.
Alhaji Adamu Maigoro, the Chairman of RIFAN in Jigawa, said that lack of improved rice varieties and seeds, inadequate fertiliser supplies and poor patronage were some factors militating against mass production of rice in the country.
He said that the challenges included the dearth of threshers and modern processing machines to properly package the rice in a way that would enable it to attract patronage even in the international market.
Some farmers in Hadejia, Jigawa, also called on the Federal Government to establish modern rice mills to boost rice production and processing in the neighbourhood.
Alhaji Muhammad Shehu, a rice dealer, said that the provision of modern parboiling equipment was very imperative in efforts to enhance the preservation of rice.
He said that locally produced rice could not be preserved for a long period of time due to the lack of parboiling equipment.
The situation is even worse in some areas like Daura, Katsina State, where Alhaji Nura Baure, the zonal RIFAN Chairman, said that the absence of rice milling plants had been a major constraint to efforts to produce rice in the neighbourhood.
He conceded that although there were rice milling plants in Batagarawa and Funtua, “those areas are very far from our farmers and the transportation cost is a burden to our farmers’’.
Hajiya Rabi Daura, a Daura-based farmer, urged the government to regulate rice production and distribution processes in order to check hoarding and other unwholesome activities of some marketers and farmers.
In Asaba, Mr Raymos Guanah, the Chief Executive Officer of Raymos Guanah Farms, decried a situation where the rice processing was still undertaken manually.
He underscored the need to mechanise rice milling and processing, saying that if pragmatic efforts were not made to jettison manual processing of rice, it would be very difficult for made-in-Nigeria rice to meet international standards.
Mr Segun Filani, an official of Rice Processors, Millers and Traders Union in Ekiti State, urged the government to initiate good initiatives that would be beneficial to farmers.
“The agricultural sector can boost the nation’s revenue, if well-harnessed.
“Aside from helping rice farmers, government can create ready markets for their produce and employment opportunities through appealing offers and value chain — right from the production to the distribution levels,’’ he said.
However, Prof. Oluyemisi Akinyemiju of the Department of Crop Production and Protection, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, described the inability of rice farmers to have confidence in themselves and their produce as a major drawback.
She alleged that rice farmers often felt that local rice was inferior to the imported polished rice.
Insisting that local rice was more nutritious than imported rice, Akinyemiju advised rice farmers to exhibit more self-confidence by repackaging their produce for local consumption and exports.
All the same, Mr Afolabi Kayode, the Chairman of AFAN in Osun, said that there was no standard rice mill in the state.
He said that rice farmers in the state often made use of manual procedures to process and bag their rice after harvests.
Also speaking, Prof. Olubunmi Omotesho of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Farm Management, University of Ilorin, said that Nigeria’s agriculture sector was underfinanced.
He noted that agricultural lending in Nigeria was merely two percent of the total loan portfolio of banks, compared to other developing countries such as Kenya, which registered six percent.
He noted that lack of reliable access to credit remained a major challenge facing the country’s farmers, particularly rice farmers.
He also called for some form of protection for local rice from unbridled rice imports and competition.
Omotesho said that this could be achieved through import tariff adjustments or outright ban on rice importation.
On his part, Prof. Gabriel Olatunji, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Technology and Innovations, University of Ilorin, said scientists at the university and their counterparts at Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) were developing an improved rice variety with a potential to prevent cancer.
He said that the collaboration between the two institutions had resulted in the signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
He said that the N50 million project, which would be carried out over a four-year period, would be funded via the National Research Fund of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TET-Fund).
Olatunji explained that the project was aimed at enhancing the well-being of rice farmers and improving the health conditions of rice consumers in the country.
A member of Ekiti House of Assembly, Alhaji lsiaku Aliyu-Adam, advocated the urgent dredging of the River Niger to achieve the desired sufficiency in rice production in Nigeria before 2018.
Aliyu-Adam, who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, said that rice production in the nation always suffered some setbacks whenever the river overflowed its banks.
“Without embarking on urgent dredging of River Niger, the nation’s aim of attaining sufficiency in rice production will remain a mirage,’’ Aliyu-Adam said.
However, some state governments are making pragmatic efforts to boost rice production.
In Ogun, for instance, Mr Tosin Ademuyiwa, the Special Assistant to Gov. Ibikunle Amosun on Agriculture, said that the state government had initiated some strategies to enhance rice cultivation in the state.
“The government has put in place measures to cultivate about 5,000 hectares of rice across eight local government areas of the state for increased production.
“The Ministry of Agriculture has already embarked on land clearing and the government will be responsible for its funding,” he said.
Ademuyiwa said that the government had also engaged contractors to build three rice processing mills in the state.
“The mills will be located across the three senatorial districts of the state.
“Rice farmers will not need to move far away from their farms to get to rice mills, thereby lessening their cost of production,’’ he added.
All the same, Dr Arotolu Abiodun, Chief Agricultural Technologist, Crop Production Department, Federal College of Agriculture, Akure, described government policies as unfavourable to farmers in the country.
He said that the policies had failed to cater to the interests of the real farmers because subsidised farm inputs did not actually get to them.
“Even though Nigeria has favourable soil and climate conditions that are conducive to rice farming, the farmers still need the subsidised inputs because they don’t have enough resources to procure everything on their own,’’ Abiodun said.