In this special report, third of five –part, our reporters across the federation, investigates how this policy change is in line with the believe that Nigeria cannot attain its true potentials by simply importing everything into the country, as well as how the apex bank will continue to be vigilant around this policy, keep reviewing the list of items as it becomes comfortable that these items can be produced locally if we apply ourselves sufficiently.
Rice Farmers Vote For Ban On Rice Importation
Rice, ginger, cassava and other cash crops production has been the pre-occupation of people in the north, especially, people living in Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa and several other Northern states. About 75 percent of farmers in Kaduna State engaged in local rice farming which according to them generate more income than other crops.
Farmers in the 23 Local Governments in Kaduna State are engaged in local rice farming besides other crops as: Ginger, cassava, pepper, sugarcane and others. In most cases, during dry season, because of the love for local rice production, they engage in dry season farming.
This is because local rice is used in so many ways. Apart from boiling rice for sale to individual consumers at reasonable price, extractions after rice milling is often cooked and pounded into ‘Tuwo Shinkafa’, meaning rice fufu, or rice food which is in high demand by the people living in Kaduna and other northern states.
The by-product from local rice milling is also used as foods for chickens, goat and pigs because of its high nutrients. While the extracted remnant during milling, Doctors say is good for diabetic patients. Due to high demand for local rice, farmers in Kaduna plant more local rice during the raining season.
However, despite the fact that local rice farming has became the source of living for many people in Kaduna State, most farmers in the state are frowning at new government policy saying it will drastically relegate them to background by making them poorer.
Former civilian Governor of Kaduna Alhaji Balarabe Musa condemned the policy of Government and described it as bad and unpatriotic. Musa an austere farmer who had about 1,000 hectares of land said Kaduna farmers alone, if encouraged could farm enough rice that will even be exported to other countries for sales.
“If the Federal Government gives the right support to farmers before this farming season and make it quite clear within six months, Nigeria farmers can produce enough for local consumption, and export to other countries.
Every section of Kaduna State can produce four varieties of rice within three months if there is proper preparation by government and adequate support to farmers.
Alhaji Musa who spent only nine months as Governor in the state before a vote of no confidence that removed him was passed by the State House of Assembly went secretly into farming and now can boost of 1,000 hectares of land declared that, what farmers want is for government to guarantee price for local rice farmers. If government can guarantee price for locally produced rice, within 3-4 months, there will be enough rice in the state.
According to him, apart from natural endemic insufficient rainfall, land degradation, local farming implements, insufficient milling machines in the state, poor roads to convey their farm produce and lack of storage facilities, farmers lacked seedlings, fertilizer and insecticide to nourish planted rice seedlings.
He described the activities of rice smugglers as dangerous to local rice production and suggested that government should enact laws that will discourage smugglers. Rice smugglers have discouraged local production because most farmers are no longer interested going into rice farming adding that “many people will find where they will buy rice at cheaper prices and the smugglers are ready to lower the price of rice smuggled into the state. If rice farmers produce rice, where is the market to sell them?” He asked.
Alhaji Balarabe explained that if the route of rice smugglers are blocked and more farmers are encouraged to engage in rice farming, it will reduce unemployment in the state, Nigeria will be self sufficient in food production as it will have enough for export.
Most Foreign Rice Are Grown Locally
The Ex-Governor noted that: “Most of the foreign rice people scamper to buy today are locally produced, smuggled outside the country, rebranded and labeled foreign rice, and smuggled into the country with its resultant chemical effect on consumers. Chemical used in preserving local rice to become foreign rice has a health effects on consumers. Therefore, banning the activities of smugglers means promoting good health of the people of Nigerians”.
Rice Farmers Decry Government Neglect
Chairman, Local Farmers Association in Kaduna State, Alhaji Babagana Jimeta who corroborated what Balarabe Musa said explained that apart from natural phenomenon such as raindrops and land degradation which hinders them from harvesting enough rice every year, the state government has refused to supply them with fertilizer early enough to plant their cash crops.
According to him, for the last two years, each farmer in the 23 Local Governments in the state could only harvest 200 bags of locally milled rice as against 400 bags each.
He said: “Rice farmers in Kaduna State have been farming at a loss over the years because of the policy of government which is in addition to the natural. There has not been early drop of rain for us to plant at the right time; the land itself is degrading every year. So, we need fertilizer to nourish the food we plant. In most cases, we buy the fertilizer in black market which are not enough for our plantations”.
He explained that in spite of the fact that local rice contained more nutrition compared to foreign rice, government has refused to give them attention by providing them with modern farm implements, fertilizer at subsidize rate, and even provide them enabling environment for farming.
He further pointed out constant smuggling of rice into the state discouraged most farmers because people prefer foreign rice to local rice. A bag of local rice which is sold between 4,500 naira has reduced to 2,500 because people no longer patronise them adding that half bag of foreign rice is sold between N4, 500 -N5000, yet people go for it.
Also, a farmer in Kajuru Local Government area of the state said he harvested 60 bags of rice last year. Another farmer Mr. Barnabas Iliya explained that he spent N200, 000 for fertilizer alone, before he could harvest up to 60 bags because of most of the fertilizer he bought were all in black market.
According to him, he could have harvested more than 60 bags if government had supplied fertilizer on time. He said most of rice could not yield because the land was already degrading and needs nutrient but the government refused to assist.
He expressed fears that poor storage facilities and access to good roads also pose a major setback for low production of rice this farming season.
Government Intervention Solicited
Managing Director and Chief Executive of a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), ‘Hope for the hopeless,’ Dr. Mohammed Abdul, urged the Federal Government to rescind its decision and make local rice production top priority in order to reduce unemployment.
He said in the last eight years, government has not created new ministries or expand old ones to create jobs, instead it merged the existing ministries and parastatals with the aim to reduce cost of governance, hence the only way to encourage employment in the country is through farming.
Government should give out soft loans to farmers in order to encourage people into short-term farming. He mentioned Rice, maize, groundnut as short term farming because it only lasted for 3-4 months to produce adding that changes must reflect every facet of the economy.
Agriculture Accounts For 56% Of GDP In Kaduna
In an interview, Head Desk, Kaduna Commercial Agricultural Development Project (CADP) , Alhaji Jubairu Danjuma said the state government has encouraged farmers in the state to produce more of local rice. He said commercial agriculture accounts for an estimated 56 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Kaduna State and provides employment for approximately Four (4) million people.
He said Kaduna produces 22 percent of the country’s maize, 36 percent of Soya bean, 69 percent of rice, 10 percent of groundnut (peanuts) as the state trades agricultural produce to other neighbouring states adding that the sector is dominated by wet season planting and an irrigated dry season planting. Most farmers currently produce cereal crops such as maize, sorghum, millet and rice during the rainy season. Kaduna is the one of the largest producers of rice in Nigeria and it exports substantial quantities to other Nigerian states and West African Countries.
Speaking to Mrs. Rhoda Adeola who sells food stuffs such as: rice, beans, groundnuts, egusi and others in Kakuri Market, said she is no longer selling locally produced rice because customers are no longer patronising her. According to her, customers do often complaint that varieties of local rice is mixed with stones and they don’t enjoy eating them.
“Though the price of local rice is lower than the foreign rice, customers preferred to buy foreign rice. Besides, local rice takes time to cook and has no taste,” she complained.
Challenges of Local Rice Production
Rice production in Kaduna state has in time past, suffered some challenges as Daily independent investigations reveals that, in recent times, there has been series of enquiries about rice production in the state.
According to our source at the Kaduna Agriculture Development Programme (KADP), an agency under the State Ministry of Agriculture, who pleaded annonimity “Agricultural Extension Workers have been sent to all the nooks and crannies of the state with the purpose of giving out agronomic services to the farmers but before then, there was New Rice for Africa (NERICA) of which Kaduna state participated”.
Rice, according to the KADP staff, is produced all over the state of which they had both the Up-land rice and the Lowland rice. There are so many Seed Companies in the state and the NERICA rice is more of the Up-land variety. However, at KADP, Capacity Building is also provided and it involves others areas of intervention in order to assist in such areas like provision of herbicides to farmers.
On challenges faced by some farmers in the state, Daily independent reliably gathered that marketing and low production has been the bane of rice farming and production in the state. The sector, according findings, has no organised structure including the political structure.
“If Kaduna state can properly produce its own rice, it is better than the imported brand”. Locally produced rice according to the KADP staff, has more nutrients than the imported brand, as it is capable of curing diabetes. The local brand is definitely higher in terms of price due to the high cost of processing and low demand.
But rice traders in the Kaduna Central market who spoke with Daily Independent, stated that the urge to be associated with foreign products by Nigerians has become a source of concern.
Mr. Ibe Ukachukwu disclosed that people like imported brand than the locally produced rice. The reason he adduced was that, the imported brand were better in terms of neatness, sweetness and absence of stones and above all, of lesser value in terms of price.
Stakeholders Want Local Rice Farmers’ Encouraged
Mr. Remi Nnadi, a rice dealer whose shop is located along the busy Lagos street axis of the main market has this to say. “If the Federal and State Governments can encourage farmers to farm rice and then produce in larger quantities, provide them with the right processing machines which would help to sieve and separate stones from the rice, it would go a long way to promote the local brand”.
“I can recall during the days of Buhari/Idiagbon regime in the 80’s when the government banned the importation of rice and encouraged rice production and farming. If the same can be replecated, I would like to sell the locally produced rice, as it is certain that the price would come down. Also, with the proper processing machines the presence of stones would be eradicated. Therefore, it would be able to compete favourably with the foreign or imported brands”.
Furthermore, at that time, “seeds were brought into the country and distributed to farmers in Kaduna and Niger states. From the produce, we had what was known as “Gwari Rice” and this particular brand of local rice was a common feature in markets in the Northern parts and was very affordable by all”.
Rice Importers Want A Liberalised Market
Alhaji Sani Mustapha, an importer of rice believes that government should allow for a free trade between importers of foreign rice and producers of local rice for a more robust economy.
According to Alh. Sani, market forces should be allowed to determine which product the consumer wants but would insists that, a level playing field is provided by the government. In his words, “the ban of foreign and imported rice will only cause price hike in the cost of the product as big investors will only device new strategies to evade scrutiny and prosecution. Take the era of ”Uncle Ben’s Rice” where the very affluent in the society would rather spend more on buying it than going for the local product”, he stated.
Mfon Ekong, a member of one of the Civil Society Organisations in the state however believes that government policies have always tilted towards favouring the upper class especially the political elites.
He is of the opinion that there could be some level of change in our disposition towards our ways of living.
According to him, Nigerian farmers seriously have to look inwards and see how they can participate in the new lease of agricultural advancement whereby they can import their own technology in rice farming and production that will make them compete favourably with the imported brands and depend less on government to do everything for them.
He called on governments at all levels to encourage farmers through provision of loans, import waivers and tax holidays to identifiable farmers. This would boost the nation’s economy, increase investments in the sector and create more job opportunities for our unemployed youths.