The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said the ongoing border drill that has largely curbed foreign rice smuggling into Nigeria has boosted rice production while fast-tracking the country’s quest to achieve rice self-sufficiency.
The Minister stated this at a press conference he addressed after leading a media tour of integrated rice mills and rice clusters in Kano on Thursday.
Quoting statistics from the Rice Millers Association, he said over 200,000 bags of rice were occupying spaces in the warehouses of virtually every integrated rice miller before the border drill started in August, while many small scale rice holders or rice clusters had to abandon their small scale but valuable means of livelihood.
Alhaji Mohammed said farmers were even worst hit since the integrated rice millers, who were the off-takers, were already struggling to save their businesses by laying off staff and finding other means to pay off their bank loans with mounting interest rates, hence were finding it hard to buy paddies from rice farmers.
“But the story changed in August this year, when the border drill drastically reduced smuggled rice, thus giving the entire rice production value chain a new lease of life. Gentlemen, within one week of the drill, every integrated rice miller exhausted the milled rice in their warehouses, recalled the staff that were laid off and resumed production. All the existing 34 rice mills that we have in the country are now producing at maximum capacity, 24 hours a day,” he said.
The Minister said currently, the integrated mills produce about 150,000 bags of rice every day, translating to over 35 million bags annually, adding that the 34 mills are expanding rapidly in order to increase capacity and meet the rising demands, while the small scale rice clusters in all parts of the country are now back on stream and feeding their local communities,
He said Nigeria’s quest to achieve self sufficiency in rice production will be quickened by the increasing activities in the rice production value chain resulting from the border drill in four of the country’s six geo-political zones.
”Achieving self sufficiency in rice production will also translate to more jobs for millions of our people as well as cheaper and more nutritious rice for all. I want to congratulate everyone in the value chain for cashing in on the opportunities provided by the border drill, which – like i said – has drastically reduced rice smuggling to the country,” Alhaji Mohammed said.
He said the 12.2 million rice farmers in Nigeria, who were cultivating rice twice a year, have now started three-times-a-year cultivation in order to meet the increasing demand.
“This is phenomenal. Not only that, at least 6 million people, mostly youths, are now venturing into rice production, meaning that we could hit 18 million rice farmers in no time if the present trend continues.
“This is a positive fallout of the border drill. Also, some farmers are now going beyond rice farming and venturing into buying rice paddies and even packaging and marketing,” the Minister said
Earlier, the Federal Government delegation, which include the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, rice farmers and millers as well as officials of the Nigeria Customs Service, had visited the Al-Hamsad Rice Mill, Kura Brothers Rice Mill, Tiamin Rice Ltd And Umza International Farms, all in Kano, to ascertain how they have been grappling with the rising demand for rice in the country.
Alhaji Mohammed later led the delegation on a courtesy visit to the Kano State Governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, at the Government House, where he told the Governor that Kano was chosen for the tour because if hosts 11 of the country’s integrated rice mills as well as 20 rice clusters.