Contrary to claims that rice farmers have yet to receive adequate support and provision of equipment to enhance their productivity, leading to scarcity and increase in price of rice, Chairman of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, has declared that this year’s farming season recorded a bumper harvest has never been recorded in the past 25 years.
He explanation comes on the heel of last August closure of the nation’s land borders by the Federal Government following large scale smuggling activities, especially rice.
The government opined that the closure would help to attain self-sufficiency of the commodity.
However, Goronyo attributed the scarcity to sabotage by few unpatriotic citizens urging Nigerians not to panic at the effect of the policy
Only recently, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) forecasted that output of milled rice for the current crop year is expected to be lowered by 3.8 million metric tonnes to 513.5 million tonnes.
FAO had projected that the production of rice may be affected by unfavourable weather in major rice-growing countries, including Nigeria.
Consequently, the economic implication of the United Nations’ food agency’s forecast on Nigeria as a rice nation, was that the price of local rice is further expected to rise following bad weather, coupled with the uncertainty in the country’s rice sector with regard to the ongoing border closure.
Refuting the report recently in an interview with Daily Sun, Goronyo insisted that few Nigerians were sabotaging the Federal Government efforts to make rice available to all consumers.
“There are people sabotaging the issue of border closure. They go round the local markets buying rice. These people buy, process, package and sell at exorbitant prices.
“Today, an official called from one of the rice markets in a local government and told me a bag of 75kg rice paddy is being sold for N7,800 to N8,200, it costs millers N2,500 to mill a bag of rice. So, they spend a maximum of 10,500, why should they sell at exorbitant rate.”
The RIFAN chairman disclosed that in a meeting of producers, millers and dealers in rice with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, recently instructed the stakeholders to discuss the issue and arrive at an affordable price.
Goronyo said if farmers sell for N8,500 and millers mill for N2,500, then, we should sell at most N14,000 for a bag. It was agreed that a bag would be sold at N14,000. He said whoever sells above the N15,000 or N16,000 price, is a saboteur and should be arrested.
“I see no reason somebody will sell at N18,000 or N17,000, it is sabotage. They buy, process, package and sell at exorbitant price or they hoard them. It is inhuman for Nigerians to cheat their brothers. We had a bumper harvest this year, which has never been for the past 25 years.
“There is more than enough paddy in the country, that there is no how we can finish the sale of our produce. God blessed us this year. We produced so much this year, that is why we are selling N8,000 for 75kg bag to millers at that cheap rate. So, whosoever sells above that should be arrested.”
Experts have continued to push for increased funding by the federal government for farmers to be equipped for the task to increase rice production. They argue that there is need for acceleration of rice production to achieve self-sufficiency in the country.
But Goronyo said the Federal Government has been supportive in funding the farmers through the Central Bank.
“We are getting the support in terms of loans.”
He disclosed the country has enough mills; We have almost 38 integrated rice mills, about 210 medium rice mills, and over 120,000 small mills in the country.”
He queried why Nigerians were punishing their brothers because of money, adding that it was greed.
The RiFAN chairman pegged the price of rice at N14,000 per bag of 50 kilograms.
But according to Prof. Kayode Babatunde Olusola, former Dean of Faculty of Agriculture, Lagos State University (LASU), the research institutes like the National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI) or any other such institutes could be consulted to research on how to improve on the production of the commodity.
“The Federal Government can ensure it galvanises research institutes to accelerate research on rice. Production constraints should be looked into.
“There should be massive acceleration of production process in states like Anambra, Ebonyi and Kebbi. Production process should be removed from the bureaucracies hindering them. That is the way to go. We are not meeting the target at all.
“They should challenge the NCIR, so that they can help the growers, those into production to overcome the challenges or constraints in terms of yield, pest control and make funds available for those involved as well as the processing.
“We need to increase the number of mills in Nigeria. When these are taken care of, production will increase and availability will be higher which will in turn bring down the price of rice.
The immediate past chairman of the National Association of Small Scale Industries (NASSI), Segun Kuti George, opined that government would have funded and ensured that production has increased by funding and giving incentives to farmers, before the border closure, it would have gone a long way to ameliorate the non-availability of rice and increase in price.
“Our main stay now is the local rice. It is an opportunity for farmers to begin to produce what our people consume and increase their output. If it becomes a permanent thing, our Small and Medium Enterprises in the agriculture sector would have to be able to produce more to meet up with the demand.
“We cannot meet the demand because we don’t have the capacity. This is the time for govt to fund farmers, so they can increase their output and meet the demand.
“When production is increased, prices can come down.
Establishment of more rice mills would also accelerate rice production, expand milling activities to stimulate further growth in the rice sector.
An agriculturist and an Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP) client in the North East, Abba Kale, had called for the establishment of mega rice mills.
He urged the Federal Government to support the establishment of modern mega rice mills in each of the 109 senatorial districts in the country to encourage processing, value addition, enhance farmer enterprising skills, promote competition and create a market for the produce.
One of the setbacks in production of rice in the country, experts say is that the produce cultivated by the farmers is higher than the capacity of the existing mills in the country.
Experts support the ban on importation of foreign rice proposing that the sudden hike in prices occasioned by the border closure can be pushed down and controlled through mass production.
Findings show that most of our mills in operation lack basic equipment such as boilers, driers and trash machines to enable production of high-quality rice to meet local demands and for export.
Hoarding is also a monster causing price hike, it should be discouraged.