The Nigerian rice revolution began with the immediate past administration’s foray into the diversification of the Nigerian economy, with special focus on agriculture and solid minerals.
Today, the President Buhari’s administration has taken the gauntlet with the administration revolutionising the nation’s economy from being oil dependent to an agro focused economy, and the records of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development put total demand for rice in Nigeria at between 5.5 million tonnes a year, of which about 3.3 million tonnes (mt) are produced locally, leaving a shortfall of 2.2mt which is imported.
Prior to the evolution, rich consumers depended on imported rice from Thailand, India, Japan, and other countries while the poor were stuck with the pebble-studded local rice blamed on poor milling and processing processes.
The ministry’s records show that up till 2013, Nigeria spent over N356 billion importing rice annually at N1 billion daily, with prices hiking between N18,000/20,000 respectively, in 2016. Today, the Nigerian rice sector has been revolutionised with several brands competing for consumers attention. These brands include Lake Chad rice, Ebonyi rice, Aba rice, Anambra rice, Kebbi rice, among several other as 26 states keyed into the federal government/Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
In the words of the president, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Malam Aminu Goronyo, before 2015, Nigeria produced between 3.5 – 4 million tonnes of paddy rice, but today, Nigeria produces over 7 million tonnes, with Kebbi State alone producing 1.5 million tonnes annually.
He said,“The rice revolution began with President Buhari through the establishment of the Anchor Borrowers Programme which 26 states keyed into. When he brought the idea, we all thought that it was a joke, but when we saw his commitment we all keyed into it and today, 26 states are participating in the Anchor Borrowers Programme.”
Reacting to why the price of rice has refused to come down despite massive production, Goronyo said,“This is not true because the price of rice has come down drastically. In fact my friend just bought a bag a few days ago for as low as N13,000 as against the N18,000 which was sold in 2016.”
Commending the efforts of the Nigeria government in the rice revolution, the president called on the government to further boost the process by providing certified rice seeds to farmers as against the current seeds which he said 70-80 per cent of the available seeds in the markets are food, sold by farmers. The rice farmer reiterated that the Nigerian rice is of top quality and could compare to those of other nations in terms of purity, standards, and quality as against the former rice which was said to be pebble-ridden.