Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), a Federal Government agency saddled with the responsibility of promoting the non-oil sector of the economy is appealing to state governments to make more land available for smallholder rice farmers, amidst projections that milled production will decline to nearly 2.3 million tons this year due to unfavourable domestic prices.
Nigeria’s rough rice is currently priced at $370 per ton compared to global price of about $300 per ton. The discrepancy could over haul Nigeria’s ambitious 2017 self-sufficiency target if concrete steps are not taken, according to industry watchers.
Olusegun Awolowo, executive director/CEO, NEPC, in his address at a workshop on rice agribusiness, organised by the Enugu zonal office of the council, in Abakiliki, the Ebonyi State capital, brought to fore one of the biggest challenges to this goal when he underlined the negative impact of stringent processes for securing title for land for rice cultivation. He wants state governments to urgently intervene.
Represented by Esther Ikporah, immediate past zonal controller, Enugu zonal office of the NEPC, Awolowo also urged the state governments to provide the basic infrastructure as roads, electricity, storage facilities to attract both local and foreign investors to the rice sector, stressing that basic infrastructure would stem rural-urban migration and encourage increased SME rice agribusiness.
According to him, irrigation is also very crucial in sustainable rice farming for the South-East region, especially in ensuring all year round rice cultivation.
For sustainable rice cultivation programme in the South-East, Emmanuel Obi, senior partner, Emmerson Technology Limited, noted that concerted investment must be made by the respective South-East governments to ensure scientific erosion management platform to safeguard and enable agriculture and especially rice farming in the South-East.
He suggested that commercial rice mills cooperatives should be established to receive paddy from primary collector traders,
He also noted that the central market exchange database portal (CMEDP) being suggested for the South-East small holder rice farmers, would provide a medium for rice farmers within the zone for market opportunity online update, integrate small and medium scale rice mills into the export chain and also improve the standard and quality control service to regulate the quality of rice.
He noted also that the market data base portal will build a strong SME rice farming cooperatives that would cultivate in building global strategic alliance towards technology for processing rice derivatives, such as rice bran that can be used for animal feed, and protein extraction for human consumption.
Obi urged small holder rice farmers in the region to either mull their rice at the local village manual mill for own consumption, sell their produce to primary collector traders or sell directly to the central market exchange to be established in the South-East or to commercial rice mills.