Local rice production has been projected to reach 2.7 million metric tons in 2017 if government policy of restricting importation is strictly adhered to, according to Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The report said that government policy of limiting rice importation has led to a drop in the importation of the commodity by as much as 300,000 metric tons in the first half of 2016.
The country, known for agricultural product exports in the 1960s, grew to become the world’s second largest rice importer with the advent of oil exploration. Report has it that between 2005 and 2015, Nigeria’s monthly import bill rose from N148 billion to N917 billion.
The recent drop in the importation of the commodity, according to analysts, means savings of foreign exchange and a good omen to local production, which is increasingly trying to meet demand.
Emmanuel Ijewere, Coordinator, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), said it is good for the country, adding that Nigerian farmers can now sell their rice. He noted that about six years ago the country had only one rice mill, but today it has increased to 16.
According to him, if the limit on importation of rice was not done, which has made Nigeria trying to be self-sufficient in rice production, those mills will not be there and the country would have been providing jobs for farmers in Indonesia, Malaysia and the likes.
“The policy is good for our farmers who can now sell their rice and improve on their production. Six years ago, Nigeria had only one integrated mill, today Nigeria has 16, this is very good, let them ban rice importation so that we can improve on what we have. That is the only way to go”, he reckoned.
Tade Falade, Managing Director, Kingsway Quality Foods, described the drop in the importation of rice as a wonderful development.
“We want Nigerians to patronise their own rice. You must have heard about Kebbi/ Lagos rice where the Lagos State government will do the processing and Kebbi will supply the rice that will make Nigeria to tackle food insufficiency instead of relying on importation.
“We can now be consuming our own locally produced rice and it is good for the country and the economy. We are spending huge amount of money importing rice; that money can be used for other things, which will improve the economy”, he noted.
Adeniyi Sola-Bunmi, Managing Director, Highhill Agribusiness Development Centre, said it is a positive development which agribusiness activist like him have been clamouring for.
He said the way it is going, the drop in importation is good for the country because it will actually ginger local production.
“Presently, Dangote is rolling out, other stakeholders are also rolling out their rice, so if we can continue in this momentum I see import dropping 50 percent in the next two years,” he said.
Recently, Lagos and Kebbi State governments signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) as part of efforts to ensure Nigeria is self-sufficient in rice production. The partnership, according to the states, would culminate in the production of 70 percent of Nigeria’s rice requirement annually.
The Lagos State government has invested in rice production at Itoikin, Igbogun around Lekki Local Council Development Area as well as a multi-million naira rice mill at Imota. However, outputs from these places are grossly inadequate in meeting local demands.
The Lagos-Kebbi rice partnership, in line with national call for economic diversification, is intended to bring about national food sufficiency, security as well as creation of employment and wealth distribution for the benefits of both states and the nation as a whole.

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