From Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
The Federal Government yesterday declared that the country has achieved near self-sufficiency in rice production. It also said that it is now in talks with rice farmers from Thailand to invest in Nigerian rice sector.
Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja yesterday assured that Nigeria will not suffer food crisis in the future.
He said Nigeria’s rice importation ratio has dropped significantly from over 644,00 metric tonnes yearly to 21,000. This, Mohammed said, is a statement that the country is about to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.
The Minister said, “today, we are happy to tell Nigerians of a giant stride made by the administration in the agriculture sector, specifically rice production. Nigeria is inching closer to achieving self-sufficiency in rice due to the success recorded by the government in the local production of rice.”
He continued: “In fact, the Thailand Rice Exporters Association has recently revealed that within a space of just two years – from September 2015 to September 2017 – Nigeria’s rice importation dropped from 644,131 metric tonnes (MT) to just about 21,000MT.”
Mohammed maintained that, “Thailand has shown interest in establishing rice milling plants in Nigeria, and this is sure to further boost rice production in Nigeria. A few years ago, this would not have been possible since Nigeria was not considered a top rice producing country. Today, Nigeria is one of the largest producers of rice.”
He explained that the improvement in rice production across the country did not happen by accident but largely due to the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari, which supports farmers through inputs distribution and loans to boost rice production. “The increased rice production has, in turn, led to the establishment of rice mills, including the 120,000MT WACOT Mill in Kebbi and the 1,000,000MT Dangote Rice Mill.”
The Minister added: “So what does the increased production of rice portend for the country? It means, as I said earlier, that Nigeria is very close to achieving self-sufficiency in rice. By 2018, the administration targets rice production of 7 million MT. As at 2015, rice demand in Nigeria stood at 6.3 million MT. There is also the fact that locally-produced rice is safer, tastier and healthier, in the words of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe.”
As part of efforts at realising the dream, he revealed that Thailand rice firms are considering setting up companies in Nigeria. He said the increase in rice production has led to increase in setting up of rice mills in some parts of the country, adding that the country will achieve self-sufficiency in rice next year.
Mohammed said four Thailand rice farmers are currently discussing with the Minister of Agriculture on investing in rice production in Nigeria.
On what government has done to encouraging rice production, he said the availability of fertiliser and the effort to make the price affordable has served as incentive to agriculture. He said the Minister has provided extension services to farmers as well as improved irrigation.
Speaking on the level of the country’s exposure to food crisis and what government is doing to protect local farmers, he said the government is making every effort to ensure food security.
He said the government is protecting local farmers, stressing that foreigners are only invited to invest in value chains in farming like processing and preservation of produce.
Mohammed said that inflation has gone down in Nigeria.