One of the biggest policy thrust of the Buhari Administration is its push for the development of the agricultural sector, with focus on growing Nigeria’s local rice production. The government via the minister of agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, has introduced several polices and incentives that it hoped will increase rice sufficiency in the country, while also bringing down the cost of rice, a major staple food in Nigeria.
As is often typical with some of these projects, the measure for success will always be competition and how much the consumers, whom they seek to protect, will pay for local rice. The results are in and it’s not that good. Local rice is more expensive than foreign rice and someone has to explain why this is so.
Here is what the Minister of Agriculture provided as his explanation;
- Most of the imported rice were from Vietnam, India and Thailand, that subsidise the export of rice. He explained that the imported rice arrives at about N9,000 per bag and were then sold at about N13,000 per bag to consumers unlike the local rice sold at about N16,000 per bag.
- He also lamented that interest rates in the country were higher than it was in most parts of the world.
- He also explains that another possible reason was the high cost of diesel to run generators in the farms. Diesel went from N180 per litre to N300,” he said.
Here are reasons provided by rice farmers
- The cost of the required inputs for rice farming had doubled.
- Some have to hire a land harrowing machine from the state Ministry of Agriculture to plow her 12-hectre farm at the cost of N35,000.
- A litre of herbicide (chemical) now cost N5,000, from N3,500 last year.
- A farmer revealed that her rice farm, which she cultivated two months ago, was now due for spraying, adding, however, that the herbicide was not available in Rivers.
- A litre of the herbicide in Ebonyi was N5, 000, adding that weeds had somewhat overtaken the farm.
- The National Secretary and Vice President, South- West zone of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) outlined some of the reasons Nigerian local rice is expensive to include the activities of the millers, whom he said mopped up the rice farmers produced and kept them in warehouses, creating scarcity and hikes in the prices.
- They concentrate more in bringing in semi -processed (par boiled) rice using high-grade machines from those countries to de-husk it and sell cheaper whereas the local ones have to be parboiled and this is what is making the local rice unavailable and expensive.
- Other challenges affecting production, according to him, include lack of farm machine and processing plants to produce the quality rice that compete with imported ones.
- The RIFAN secretary who lamented that quality seeds, fertilizer and agro-chemicals remain a major challenge for the farmers, also said the CBN’s loan is not going round to all the farmers, saying the situation will also affect general production.