Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, on Sunday in Abuja said Nigeria was “producing more paddy rice than ever before”.
Adesina, who made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said owing to the enhanced production of paddy rice, the Federal Government planned to end rice importation by the year 2016.
The minister said that Nigeria was the largest importer of Thailand rice and that by so doing Nigeria was making its local farmers jobless while creating jobs for farmers in the Asian country.
“We have set a target that in 2016, we will come to zero in terms of import because we are producing more paddy. What we just need to do is to process more of that paddy into finished rice.
“That is why government is working very hard to get new integrated rice mills from China to have partners in the country so that we can mill all that.
“So, the issue is I want to make sure we are increasing the share of the domestic paddy being milled over time. That means that imported rice will go down as that goes up. I want to assure Nigerians that we are well on track to be rice self-sufficient.”
Adesina said because Nigeria had the capacity to be self-sufficient in rice production, the ministry would not relent in its efforts to ensure that local farmers were encouraged to produce and were also protected from unnecessary competition.
“It is not just about what you eat, it is about your future, and whether you are willing to sacrifice that future just for the convenience of the present.
“If we cannot grow rice I can understand that; but we can grow rice – upland rice, lowland rice, fadama rice, irrigated rice, and mangrove rice in the Niger-Delta. Everywhere in this country, we can grow rice.“
Adesina said 1.1 million tons of paddy rice was produced last dry season, and that if all of it was milled, it would meet at least 30 per cent of the rice the country was importing.
He added that in the 2013 wet season, not less than 960,000 tons of rice was produced.
According to the minister, government plans to produce 1.6 million tons of paddy rice in the 2013/2014 dry season.
He acknowledged the challenge of inadequate infrastructure for both farmers and the millers in the country and said government would help to establish rice aggregation centres to ease millers’ access to paddy rice.
He said the rice aggregation centres would clean the rice, bag, and standardise it, so that millers could buy tons of it at subsidised price to compensate for certain infrastructure challenges, including transportation.
Adesina said the tariff policy was being reviewed to encourage investors in the rice project and to deal with the issue of importers and smugglers who he said, were not creating jobs in the country.
The minister promised that the Federal Government would not abandon farmers in the country, saying that if the governments of other countries supported their farmers, Nigeria had no reason not to do otherwise.
He said the government would guarantee the price of farm produce for farmers.