For some, Kebbi State is the rice capital of Nigeria. Home to hundreds of thousands of rice farmers with over 500,000 hectares of rice farmlands, the story of rice in the state is, however multidimensional.

A first time visitor to any of the state’s large paddy rice markets will be overwhelmed by the quantum of rice piled for sale as merchants, millers all over the country troop to the area.

As diverse as the farmers and the buyers are, so are the issues in their minds different. For the farmers, the issues of cost of quality seed, fertiliser and market for their produce remain paramount while the buyer fears smuggling activity which triggers downward movement of prices.

Suru paddy rice market is one of the markets that witness a beehive of activities. Daily Trust interacted with rice farmers and buyers who shared the stories of their successes and the fear that the market’s future may depend on the answer to the key question: will the gains recorded in the last two years be sustained?

Driving over the main road, about 500 metres to the market, is a herculean task as one manoeuvers his way through the thousands of 80kg bags of paddy rice, large crowd and articulated trucks loading rice.

Standing in the midst of such bags of rice sweating was Malam Aminu Mohammed, a 32-year-old man and father of three. He told Daily Trust that he generated about N400,000  as profit during the wet season alone.

However, for the dry season in which he harvested 60 bags, he expressed dismay over what he called the fallen price of paddy rice, which is now selling between N7,500 to N9,000. That wasn’t the case few months ago when he sold the same 70kg bags at N14,000 each.

Asked why he thinks the prices plummeted. He pointed at “news of large quantity of foreign rice smuggled into the country last month,” which sparked protest from farmers across the country.

But Adamu Salisu, who said he is a farmer and a merchant, thinks the buyers sometimes raised alarm over massive importation, which might jeopardize the future of markets – the result is that such development affects the markets which the buyers take advantage of.

In Bunzu market, you could see rice everywhere. Although most farmers are happy with how much they are making now, compared to past years, some are worried that smuggling will erode the gains made in the past 15 months.

But Danjuma Bukar Alero believes that beside the smuggling which is their biggest threat, the big millers in the country do influence prices in the markets – a situation he wants the government to intervene in, in order to protect the smallholder farmers.

Although the markets are huge, they are not organised to aid collection of statistics and/or taxes on paddy rice trading.

The markets are also fast expanding and the quantum of product is increasing by the day as more and more farmers are heeding the call to go back to farm.

With two large-scale mills (Labana rice in Birnin Kebbi and WACOT rice, which is about to commence operations in Argungu) and pockets of medium and small mills all over, the farmers should not be worried about the future of their market, but as it is now, even those milling locally are worried because they might go out of business if government does not tighten the noose further on smuggling.

Mohammed Sahabi Augie is the Kebbi State Chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN). He told Daily Trust that the state is recording annual increase in the quantum of production especially in the last rain-fed and dry seasons.

This, he said, was also possible because of the FG Anchor Borrowers’ programme. He however thinks the market needs to be reorganised-something Governor Abubakar Bagudu said the state was working on.

Mohammed Sanusi Umar, the Director of Kebbi State Agriculture and Rural Development Programme, said the state government pays strategic attention to wheat and rice production and as such is working on a more organised system that will benefit both the farmers and the processors.