The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, says no fewer than six million people, mostly youths are venturing into rice production following the impact of the border closure on rice value chain.
The minister disclosed this on Thursday in Kano when he led a stakeholder in the rice production to the state Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje.
Our correspnodent reports that Mohammed, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, are in Kano on assessment tour of the impact of the border drill on the entire rice production value chain.
“Before the drill, which some people have referred to as border closure, there were 12.2 million rice farmers in Nigeria, according to the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN).
“The farmers were cultivating rice twice a year. Now, many rice farmers across the country have started three-times-a-year cultivation in order to meet the increasing demand.
“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,” he said
Mohammed said that Nigeria’s quest to achieve self sufficiency in rice production will be hastened by the increasing activities in the rice production value chain brought about by the border drill.
He added that self sufficiency in rice production would also translate to more jobs for millions of people as well as cheaper and more nutritious rice for all.
“We can now tell you, without mincing words, that the border drill has impacted positively on rice production in the country,” he said.
Mohammed said that some farmers were going beyond rice farming and venturing into buying rice paddies and even packaging and marketing.
He said that young farmers were buying small rice mills and off-taking rice paddies from rice farms.
The Minister noted that before the drill started in August, the existing 34 rice mills and the thousands of rice clusters in the country were practically shutting down, due to the pervasiveness of smuggled foreign rice into the Nigerian market.
“In fact, over 200,000 bags of rice were occupying spaces in the warehouses of virtually every integrated rice miller as at that time, according to the rice millers, whose president, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Umza, is also here.
“The story of the small scale rice holders or rice clusters was even worse, since they had to abandon their small scale, but valuable means of livelihood.
“Since the integrated rice millers 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, buying paddies from rice farmers was almost an impossible task.
“So, farmers practically stopped farming, with a devastating impact on the income of those farmers and their families,” he said.
Mohammed said that the story changed in August when the border drill drastically reduced smuggled rice, thereby giving the entire rice production value chain a new lease of life.
He said 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.
The minister said all the existing 34 rice mills in the country were now producing at maximum capacity, 24 hours a day.
*Currently, the integrated mills now produce about 150,000 bags of rice every day, translating to 35 million bags annually.
“In addition, the 34 mills are expanding rapidly in order to increase capacity and meet the rising demands.
“More mills are also springing up in all parts of the country and the small scale rice clusters in all parts of the country are now back on stream feeding their local communities,” he said.
Mohammed said the team chose Kano to assess the impact of the border drill on the entire rice production value chain, because the state has the highest number of integrated mills in the country.
He said out of the 34 integrated mills in Nigeria, Kano State alone had 11, in addition to 20 rice clusters.
“An estimated 5000 metric tons of finished rice are turned out daily by the 11 integrated mills and 20 clusters in Kano.
“The ratio is 40 per cent from the integrated mills and 60 per cent from the clusters, while mills, combined, employ about 10,000 people.
It was reported that both ministers, some rice farmers, millers and sellers in the state as well as a team of journalists visited integrated rice mills and clusters of cottage rice mills in Kano, before the courtesy call to the governor..
Specifically, the team visited four integrated rice mills which are Al-Hamsad Rice, Kura Brothers Rice Mill, Tiamin Rice Ltd and Umza International Farms.
The team also visited clusters of cottage rice mills in Kura Local Government Area of the state.