Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Sabo Nanono on Monday scored high, local rice production in Nigeria, predicting that the country might soon begin exportation of the produce.
The minister made the assessment during a familiarisation tour of Nestlé Nigeria Plc. headquarters at Ilupeju, Lagos State.
Nanono said that the country’s land border closure had resulted in increased output by many rice milling plants which, he noted, were operating below capacities before the closure.
He said that, with the improved production rate, Nigerian rice might soon be exported.
“Before the closure of our land border, most of these rice milling plants were partially operating, but now, they not only operate in full capacities but are also expanding.
“If we maintain the momentum in the next two years, we may export rice to other countries.
“I was worried in terms of the production of rice, but what I have found out is that most rice producers have stocked rice for the next six months.
“This means that before the stock is finished, dry season rice will be harvested, and before that finishes, rainy season rice will come out,” he said.
According to the official, it is a complete cycle.
“What we observed is that it is only in three months – from November to January – that rice is not being grown in this country.
“We cultivate rice in a nine-month cycle; probably as we move on, the cycle will widen; so, we do not have a problem with rice processing.’’
The minister also noted that there had been expansion of local rice value chain as well as the creation of more jobs due to increased rice production.
“One or two months ago, the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and I were at Kano State to assess rice processing.
“As at now, we have 11 rice milling plants with the capacity to produce from 180 tonnes to 350 tonnes of rice per day.
“In a few months, another mill with a capacity to produce 400 tonnes per day is going to be opened. Apart from that, there are about 34 smaller mills; then, we have clusters in different areas.
“When I was in Kaura, local rice farmers asked me to tell President Muhammadu Buhari to throw the keys of the borders into the ocean,” he said.
The minister said that local rice farmers were fully engaged and used between 200 farm lands and 300 farm lands directly.
“Think of the indirect jobs that they also create,” the minister said.
At a press conference later, Nanono said that the ministry would recruit and train 50,000 extension workers in the next three year to aid local farmers.
He said that lack of extension workers to aid local farmers had resulted in poor production of crops.
According to him, insufficient extension agents was a major problem in the agriculture sector.
“We are currently emphasising the issue of extension agents for local farmers.
“We lack extension agents in this country. We need extension officers to guide local farmers on how to use fertilisers in the different soils they farm on.
“If we do not have extension agents, we will always have issues in production of quality crops, especially beans,’’ he said.
He noted that extension workers knew the right level of chemicals and other inputs to apply to crops.
“Unfortunately, we are lacking them. That is why the ministry aims to recruit and train about 50,000 extension officers in the country in the next three years.
“One way to engage a large number of youths is to train them as extension officers for local farmers.
“We also want to train some as specialised extension officers – those that will carry farmers along; they will become farmers on site.
“If our Agriculture Mechanisation programme comes through as we hope, it will involve a lot of unemployed youths,” Nanono said.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nestle Nig. Plc., Mr Mauricio Alarcon, thanked the minister for the visit and hoped for a better working relationship with the ministry.
“As a company, we are not really sourcing for loans from the government but we want loans to be given to the right people in the agriculture value chain.
“We want loans to be given to processors and farmers. These are the ones that need the loans most – thanks to the Anchor Borrowers scheme.
“We source 80 per cent of our products locally. We source 100 per cent of maize for Golden Morn locally; Soya, millet, sugar, salt and cocoa are also locally-sourced.
“We are very pleased with the visit of the minister because we aim to collaborate to make a difference in the agriculture sector,’’ Alarcon said.
He said that the company was convinced that there were much opportunities of collaboration in Nigeria.
“It this through this type of interactions that we can make a difference,” he added.