Nigeria: FG assures of self-sufficiency in rice by 2020, raises alarm over unhealthy imported rice

*23 fertiliser plants for 2018 Presidential Fertilizer Initiative

WorldStage Newsonline– The Federal Government of Nigeria has assured that with sustained implementation of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme launched on Nov. 17, 2015, the country will achieve self-sufficiency in rice production by 2020.

This is coming as the number of rice fathers has risen to over 11 million rice farmers in Nigeria, up from five million in 2015.

Addressing journalists in Lagos on Monday, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said, “the country had never been closer to self-sufficiency in rice, a national staple, than now.

“This has been made possible by the purposeful leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has consistently said that this nation must produce what it consumes,’’ he said.

He said President Buhari launched the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme to provide farm inputs in cash and kind to smallholder farmers to boost local production of commodities, including rice and that the programme also aimed at stabilising inputs supply to agro processors and address the country’s negative balance of payments on food.

He said, “The result is the exponential growth in local rice production that has now moved us closer to ending rice importation.

“Within two years, rice importation from Thailand fell from 644,131 Metric Tons (in Sept 2015) to 20,000 MT (in Sept. 2017). That’s over 90 per cent drop.

“So far, less than 100 billion Naira has been spent on the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme that has achieved so much.’’

He recalled that in April 2008, the Federal Government had to quickly release N80 billion from the Natural Resources Development Fund to import 500,000 MT of rice in order to cushion what it said was the effect of a global disaster.

“Imagine that we have ploughed that money into rice production in 2008, we would have been exporting rice by now,’’ he said.

He said RIPAN’s total investment in the Nigerian economy was in excess of N300 billion while upcoming investments would amount to N250 billion.

According to him, the new investments will add 5,000 jobs and additional 1,775,000MT of integrated rice milling capacity.

Mohammed said the new investments would save 300 million dollar FOREX from import substitution through local processing.

He said with the significant increased production in rice paddy, Nigeria’s rice import bill, hitherto at 1.65 billion dollars annually, had dropped by over 90 per cent.

The minister said that the nation’s current rice consumption is approximately six million MT of milled rice.

“In 2015, Nigeria produced 2.5m MT of milled rice. By 2017, it rose to 4m MT, leaving a gap of 2m MT.

“Our target is to fill that gap by 2020,’’ he said.

The minister added that in 2015, there were only 13 integrated rice mills and by 2017, the number rose to 21.

“It is important to note that the new investments were made when Nigeria was in recession, indicating investors’ confidence in Mr President and the Nigerian economy.

“The investments have not stopped as15 more mills are about to take off, including the Dangote Rice Mills to be established in six states with a total capacity of about one million MT,’’ he said.

Mohammed said that with increased rice production, “RIPAN members presently employ 5,000 skilled Nigerians through direct employment.

He said five million farmers were recruited through indirect employment, more than 500,000 input suppliers were engaged and hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers, including labourers got jobs.

UNHEALTHY CONDITION OF IMPORTED RICE

Mohammed, at the media briefing also raised alarm over the unhealthy status of smuggled imported rice being dumped in the country calling on Nigerians not to consume them.

He said the government could not guarantee the healthy status of the rice having spent months on the high seas and warehouses.

He appealed to Nigerians to complement the efforts of the government by consuming only locally-grown and processed rice which he said “is fresher, tastier and healthier’’.

“We don’t know where or how imported rice is made or how old it is? It is reported that most of the rice dumped on us are old and probably rejected.

“The citizens of those countries do not eat this rice. The citizens of Benin also do not eat it. But they send it to us.

“Unhealthy foods are dangerous to health. So let’s eat what we can vouch for,’’ he said.

The minister noted that rice smuggling was the biggest challenge facing rice production in Nigeria.

Quoting the Rice Millers Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RIMIDAN), he said that more than two million metric tonnes (MT) of parboiled rice were smuggled into Nigeria in 2017.

Mohammed said that smuggled rice was primarily sourced from Thailand and India and came into Nigeria through the country’s borders with Benin, Niger and Cameroon.

“In Benin Republic, the total demand for white rice (white rice is consumed in Benin, against parboiled rice in Nigeria) is 400,000 MT.

“Yet the country, with a population of about 11 million imports between one million and 1.2m MT of rice annually.

“Who are they importing for? Nigerians of course. In fact, as Nigeria’s rice import falls, Benin’s rice import increases.

“Most of the parboiled rice imported by Benin eventually lands in Nigeria through smuggling,’’ he said.

The minister said that smuggled rice costs between N11,000 and N13,000 per 50kg bag, while Nigerian processed rice sells for between N14,500 and N15,000 per 50kg bag

Explaining why price of local rice was higher, he said Cameroon and Benin Republics had lowered tariff payable on rice to 0 and five per cent respectively to encourage importation and subsequent smuggling into Nigeria.

He added that Thailand and India where the smuggled rice were sourced also gave a high level of subsidies to rice farmers and rice processors.

The minister disclosed that the local rice producers had made some representations to the government on how Nigerian rice could compete favourably, in terms of pricing, with the heavily subsidised imported rice.

He assured that the government would work on the presentations to formulate policies and take steps that will bring down the price of local rice.

Mohammed noted that less than three years into the rice revolution, millions of jobs had been created in the whole value chain in the country.

He, therefore underscored the economic importance of consuming locally produced rice, especially in terms of job creation.

“Nigerians should remember that every time they eat imported rice, they are eating the jobs that would have been created for Nigerians.

“It is important for Nigerians to know that when they consume imported rice, they are creating jobs in India and Thailand and destroying jobs across our country.

“Today, we have rice farmers in all states and all geopolitical zones.

“In fact, most of us have friends and relatives who are farming rice. So if we don’t patronise their products, we are destroying their livelihoods,’’ he said.

He said the government would embark on a massive nationwide campaign to sensitise compatriots to the need to support the rice revolution by consuming local rice.

23 FERTILISER PLANTS FOR 2018 PRESIDENTIAL FERTILIZER INITIATIVE

Mohammed also at a media confirmed that the Federal Government will revive 12 moribund fertiliser blending plants to bring to 23 the total number of plants that will partake in 2018 Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI)

He said 11 moribund plants with a combined capacity of over two  million metric tonnes (MT) had been revived.

He said fertiliser production in Nigeria has been a success story with the setting up of the PPI in Dec. 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said the PFI was set up to deliver commercially significant quantities of affordable and high quality fertiliser at the right time to the Nigerian farmer.

“The PFI has turned out to be a magic wand in fertilizer production.

“Recall that the agricultural sector and the country’s food production were negatively impacted in 2016, as farmers became exposed to high and rising prices for key agric inputs.

“In 2017, PFI delivered 10 million 50kg bags (500,000MT) of NPK 20:10:10 fertilizer at a price of N5,500 in time for the wet season.

“That’s down from the price of N9,000 per 50kg bag in 2016 – a 40% reduction in price.

“In 2018, PFI targets the delivery of 20 million 50kg bags (1 million MT), double the figure for 2017,” he said.

The minister recalled that before PFI, each imported fertilizer bag was subsidised to the tune of N6,000 per bag.

He said in 2017, PFI saved the government N60 billion in would-be subsidies.

“The FOREX savings in 2017 was 150 million dollars, thanks to the substitution of imported inputs of NPK with locally sourced inputs,” he said..

The minister said that limestone and urea were sourced locally while phosphate was imported on from Morocco and potash from Europe.

He said President Buhari personally negotiated a long-term bulk purchase agreement of phosphate with the King of Morocco and his team

Speaking on other benefits of the PFI, the minister said over six million bags of fertiliser had been sold to farmers at N5,500 per bag.

“There is now a higher patronage for the country’s rail network due to movement of raw materials and finished goods.

“Also, the bag-making sector of the economy was boosted, with over 10 million packaging bags produced exclusively for PFI

“60,000 direct jobs and even higher number of indirect jobs have been created,” he said

The minister reiterated the commitment of  the government to fertiliser and agricultural revolution.

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