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Transforming rice sector for higher productivity

Transforming rice sector for higher productivity

 September 13, 2019

[/url][Image: Adefeko.jpg]

For many years, the country has not been able to meet the increasing demand for rice, which is augmented with high imports. To turn the tide, an agricultural firm, Olam Nigeria, is training and empowering rice farmers in some states to boost their productivity and income, DAN ESSIET reports.

Olam Nigeria is working   with some partners to boost the country’s rice industry through its agricultural transformation project, its Vice President, Corporate and Government Relations, Ade Adefeko, has said.

The partnership has seen local rice farmers given access to high-yielding  seeds and rice varieties that, in the long run, will help make production more sustainable and profitable for producers.

Adefeko said the organisation  was deploying rice varieties bred in higher yield, superior grain quality, improved pest and disease resistance, resilience to climate change-induced stresses, and higher seed production, traits that could help farmers increase their yields.

He said Olam aimed to improve rice production and productivity in a safe and sustainable manner and enhance the value of rice products to meet consumer standards and market demands.

According to him, Olam is working with public and private partners to transfer agricultural technologies to farmers.

He said Olam’s objective was to promote sustainable rice production, strengthen value chains, raise farmers’ income, develop capacity, and contribute to improved nutrition.

He said rice-growing communities in Nasarawa, Benue, Taraba and Kaduna states were supported by Olam with training and agri-input to improve their paddy yields and revenue with assured buy-back at prevailing market prices.

He said the company has developed a 13,500-hectare irrigated paddy farm on a greenfield site in Ondorie, Nasarawa State. The  multi-million dollar integrated rice mill in the state has the capacity to produce 36,000 metric tonnes of rice  yearly.

In the middle of the rice farm is a mechanised mill with milling and Italian parboiling technologies.

He said the Nasarawa plant has a capacity to mill 105,000 mts yearly.

Since 2011, he said the organisation has invested $120 million in the rice project and 1044 employees were working on the farm.

According to him, 4451 of 13,500 hectares, are under cultivation, with plan to add 3,000 hectares.

The yield, he  said, is about 10 mts per hectare, over two yearly crop cycles, based on four varieties, which include Faro44, Faro61, C-19, and C-20. They have been tested by the West African Rice Development Association.

He said the company has 6,967 outgrowers, adding that it is targeting 16,000.

Since October 2017, he said, the company has achieved additional milling capacity of 90,000 mts yearly at its Kano plant.

He said the company was ready to assist the Federal Government in its plan to advance the nation’s rice self-sufficiency goals through development projects.

According to analysts, the rice sector has been challenged by climate change, stagnated yields, high production and labour costs, low private sector investment, and poor mechanisation and technology adoption by its farmers.

Experts said the country’s rice productivity level was less than half of its potential. The plan, according to them, should be focused on developing high-yielding and climate resilient varieties with tolerance for biotic and abiotic stresses, nutritious and value-added rice, capacity building and mechanisation, among others.

They said improved access to financing, affordable agricultural insurance, technical advisory services for developing farmers and access to markets are some of the priorities that could create a more- friendly environment for rice farming.

Meanwhile, the President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, said Nigeria had hit a yearly production of eight million metric tonnes of rice, with a target of 18 million metric tonnes by 2023.

He said: “The production as of today by RIFAN and other relevant agencies’ record is eight million metric tonnes, even Kebbi has hit almost two million metric tonnes, if not for the last flood that devastated the farms.

“It has been established by relevant agencies that Nigeria is the largest producer of rice in Africa as the population of rice farmers in the country has also risen.

“With the ever-increasing population and the ban on rice importation, RIFAN is targeting 18 million tonnes by 2023.’’

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