Bridging the deficit in rice production

Rice is one of the most important staple food crops and an important source of income for the farmers. The United States (US) Department of Agriculture says Africa’s rice demand for the produce may hit 15.7 million tonnes. There are efforts to strengthen Nigeria’s rice sector by helping to add to the supply chain, with key interventions at the farming, milling and distribution stages, writes DANIEL ESSIET.

 

Rice is the most popular staple food for more than half the world’s population. In Africa alone, the United States (US) Department of Agriculture estimated that rice demand this year stands at 15. 7million tonnes. Nigeria is a top market for rice.

KPMG’s Rice Industry Review last October stated that only 57 per cent of the 6.7 million metric tonnes of rice consumed in Nigeria yearly is locally produced, leading to a supply deficit of about three million metric tonnes.

Leading professional services firm, PwC Nigeria said Nigeria’s rice statistics suggest there is an enormous potential to raise productivity and increase production with yields at two tonnes per hectare, which is about half of the average achieved in Asia. As population increases, along with rural to urban migration, the firm noted that ensuring food security in key staples becomes critical.

As rice consumption remains strong, driven by population and economic growth, the Federal Government stated that rice farms will be revitalised to boost rice production, create jobs and improve the living standards of the people in the state and the region. Given the importance of rice as a staple in Nigeria, the Minister of State, Agriculture and Rural Development, Hon. Mustapha Baba Shehuri, stated that the Federal Government is taking steps to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production, and this is evident in the policies of the government in achieving food and nutrition security, import substitution and promotion of inclusive economic growth across all sectors of the economy.

He said the government is determined to help develop the rice sector, and the interventions include the provision of farm inputs such as agrochemicals, organic fertiliser, knapsack sprayers, planting and harvesting equipment such as reapers, mini combine harvesters, threshers at a subsidised rate to increase productivity.

The minister added that these policies have not only increased the quantity of rice produced yearly but also interventions through the provision of modern rice milling machines to small/medium scale processors, had also helped to improve the quality of Nigeria milled rice to international standard.

However, Nigeria’s rice consumption still holds higher than production, but the government interventions, through myriads of policies, have increased rice production from 4.8 million metric tons of milled rice in 2015 to over six million metric tons by 2019 with a huge reduction in the nation’s deficit./  Hon. Mustapha Baba Shehuri explained that production is expected to increase as the government continues to revitalize rice farmers.

Shehuri said: “The Ministry has established 23 Paddy Aggregation Centres nationwide to aggregate and store paddy. The centres were given to members of the Paddy Dealers Association of Nigeria (PRIDAN) under the public-private partnership arrangement.”

He said there would be the dissemination of modern rice production and processing technologies, through capacity building of farmers and processors directly and also, in conjunction with the international donor agencies such as Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), German International Cooperation (GIZ), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Competitive Africa Rice Initiative (CARI), and AfricaRice.

He reiterated that the ministry was responding to the challenges of food availability posed by the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting smallholder farmers nationwide with various input, including certified seeds of improved varieties of food crops such as rice, maize, sorghum, wheat, orange-flesh sweet potato, groundnut cowpea, soybean, yam, as well as cash crops like cashew, cocoa, sesame, oil palm, gum Arabic.

Others include herbicides, pesticides and agricultural machinery such as rice reapers, transplanters, power tillers motorized sprayers and processing equipment. In addition, the Rice Compact of the African Development Bank-funded project on Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) is paving the way for rice transformation in sub-Saharan Africa by promoting locally-adapted high-yielding hybrid rice varieties developed by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice).  One such trailblazer is AR051H, which is the first hybrid rice variety released by the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA) in Senegal under the name ISRIZ-9 in 2017. With high yield potential of 11-13 tonne/hectare(t/ha), long slender grains and good milling quality, ISRIZ-9, is aromatic, a trait that is highly appreciated by Senegalese consumers.

 

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