Kebbi Rice Farmers: Emerging Millionaires Achieving Rice Sufficiency Target

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From: AgroNature Admin

The massive large rice farms spread across the green landscape in Suru community, forming a perspective with the blue sky. To the west is about 20 kilometers rice farm and the north side is another 50 kilometers rice plantation. Though seemed unimaginable but it’s the reality in Kebbi state, where rice farmers do all year round farming. First is during the harmattan, dry season and the wet season farming.

Incidentally, the massive rice production is replicated in three major locations in the state aside from 13 other local governments, where rice production is predominantly a daily occupation. From the Sokoto state boundary to Argungu, Birnin Kebbi, Suru, Yauri among others are actively involved in rice production.

Farmers in various communities in the local governments are gradually becoming millionaires. A lot now go on pilgrimages without necessarily waiting to be sponsored by the state government. For instance, in the last farming season, rice farmer got 1.5 million bags of paddy, while each bag sells at about N10, 000.  Their target is to increase rice production to 2.5 million bags of paddy in 2018, with 50 per cent commitment to helping the country attain self-sufficiency in the staple food.

Alh. Muhammadu Sanni, a rice farmer with two wives and 11 children is among those who have enjoyed significant yield in rice production. He has been farming rice for 33 years. “My rice paddy increased from 21 to 32 bags with the government interventions and having this pumping machine has gone a long way to improving my livelihood.” “In a farming season, I make 300, 000 in a year,” Sanni added.     

58 years old Alh, Ibrahim Saliyu, only has eight ridges of rice farm which is almost an acre. He has only one wife and two children but after both children got married, he kept sustaining himself with the wife from proceeds from the rice farm. He sold a bag of paddy at the rate of N10, 000 and was able to make eight bags from his field but he keeps expanding his cultivation.

Former Kebbi State Head of Service, Alhaji Buhari Alidu Jega, has been a farmer while in the public service and continued in the farming business even after retirement. He has 13 hectares rice farm, 10 hectares rice farm with additional seven hectares of rice farm in Jega community which he harvests at least 750 bags of paddy at every farming season.

“Even though I was a civil servant when I started farming but I’m still into it because it is lucrative.” He advised youth to embrace agriculture and be employers of labour.      

The journey to end rice imports and attain self-sufficiency started with supports from the Federal Government Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP). 70, 000 farmers piloted the initiative in Kebbi. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) led project in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and rice millers was targeted at supporting farmers with farm inputs and markets. It was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari November 17, 2015.

According to a guideline document obtained from Development Finance Department of the CBN, the initiative “is intended to create a linkage between anchor companies involved in the processing and Small Holder Farmers (SHFs) of the required key agricultural commodities. The programme thrust  of the ABP is provision of farm inputs in kind and cash (for farm labour) to small holder farmers to boost production of these commodities, stabilize inputs supply to agro processors and address the country’s negative balance of payments on food. At harvest, the SHF supplies his/her produce to the Agro-processor (Anchor) who pays the cash equivalent to the farmer’s account.”

The benefitting farmers are usually between a group of 5 and 20 for easy administration and monitoring. Meanwhile, the CBN intervention, sourced from N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF) targeted about 225, 000 farmers nationwide. Fortunately, the project appeared to be paying-off as farmers are increasing their lands cultivation and yields with a ready-made market (off-takers). This has resulted in a drop in rice import into the country from Thailand. According to the Minister of Information and Culture, there is a sharp by over 90 per cent.

Stocked Rice Paddy in one of paddy markets, Kamba market in Kebbi State.

The largest recorded ever in the history of the state and the country by extension was last year, 1.5 million bags of paddy produced last year by Kebbi rice farmers. This year 2.5 million bags target aside from expected production from more than 30 states is expected to increase farmers income and local production. Though, national rice consumption is about 7 million metric tons annually. This is currently being met through smuggling from neigbouring countries but the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has been striving to address this.

The Chairman Presidential Task Force Committee on Rice and Wheat Production, Gov. Abubakar Bagudu, lauded the project. He said rice farmers in the state will require N55 billion to produce enough rice to meet demands from major millers and help realize national demand. He cited the rice pilot project in Kebbi state which had N11 billion loan from the CBN, yet produced beyond expectation last year. With right partnership and support, the country, he said could start buying a bag of rice at N10, 000. Already, two of the largest rice milling facilities in the state, Labana and Walcot are largely responsible for off-taking the paddies. The Dangote group recently visited the state to set up additional rice milling factory. As a result, farmers are being relieved of processing and markets.           

During recent visit to Kebbi by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, additional milling plants with joint capacity of 370 tons in Kamba, was being constructed and owned by an entrepreneur. The minister said the Federal Government was creating more jobs through agriculture and contributing to food security. According to him, the investment was paying-off, as the country’s rice import bill has dropped significantly, opening new windows of opportunities for the current and potential farmers.          

“The programme aimed at food production, job creation, income generation and self-sufficiency has been a tremendous success in Kebbi state. The partnership between Kebbi and Lagos states on rice value chain that produced the Lake rice has also solved the challenge of glut by providing ready-made market for rice farmers.”

At a visit to Kamba rice market close to border town from Niger and Benin Republic, revealed how international trade is being carried out. Tons of paddy rice is being sold on daily basis except for weekends especially Sunday that little sales are recorded. To facilitate greater trading and mobility, the state government revealed that a major road connecting the town with the two neigbouring countries will soon be completed.             

We will help FG achieve 50 per cent Rice sufficiency target – Kebbi Commissioner

At the tour of the various rice farms, Kebbi State Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Garba Dandiga assured the state will help federal government to achieve 50 per cent self-sufficiency target in its rice production bid. Already, the state is said to have met its local need on the commodity.

“We want to help Nigeria achieve 50 per cent of its rice requirement. We are aggregating dry and rain fell seasons. This year, we want to record 2.5 million tons but the important thing is we produce more rice paddy in the dry season than the rain fell.

“Last year, this is where they sold 1.5 million bags of rice paddy. It is the biggest in the history of the state. We have eight of this in the state; there is one at Argungu, Jega among others.”

The federal government since commencement of the current administration has strived to reduce imports and promote local contents. In the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP) 2015, also known as the green alternative, there were outlined plans to drastically reposition the economy through agriculture. From 2015 till date, the country was able to cut the importation of rice from Thailand from 644,000 metric tonnes to a little over 20,000MT currently.

“Officially we have been able to eliminate 90 per cent of rice importation into Nigeria. We’ve grown the number of rice farmers in Nigeria, from five million two years ago to about 12 million today. Also, there is a pilot scheme going on this season and we are doing 200,000 hectares of rice and each hectare employs 25 people.

“Now, that will be another five million people that will be added to the rice revolution. This programme has been flagged off already and as I speak to you today it is ongoing in Kano where 31,000 farmers are being empowered by the Central Bank of Nigeria this season,” Mohammed said.

Lake Rice caused huge demand for Nigerian Rice

Experts in the agriculture sector applauded the inter-state cooperation which brought about Lagos Kebbi (Lake) rice. While Kebbi has the vast land to cultivate, produce and mill the commodity, Lagos serve as the market.  The Kebbi state governor, Bagudu affirmed the partnership agreement caused huge demand for local rice in the country.

One of the industrial rice milling facilities privately owned but still under construction in Kebbi State.

The innovation changed orientation of many Nigerians to appreciate local rice consumption, especially for its nutritional benefits and affordability. In order to gain greater acceptability, the state government during festive season subsidies the commodity to ensure wide reach. No doubt, product acceptability in Lagos is an indication of reasonable national acceptance. It is believed that if a product succeed or otherwise at the centre of excellence, its survival is easily determined.            

Bagudu, who acknowledged the acceptance by the Lagos State traders said the traders often determines mood of the nation in terms of product. “The people of Lagos saw it as a good product better than the imported ones. That created demand for Nigerian Rice in general, not Kebbi rice because they have an enlightened market. They supported the programme and demand was created.

“Just last week, I had a meeting with traders association and millers in Daleko, Iddo and other markets. They shared their experiences and they were absolute and categorical that the Nigerian Rice is better than imported ones. We spoke about how to make it better through better supply chain and make it affordable.”

Such gesture, if replicated in other states is expected to boost wide production, as it has been proven that more than 30 states in the country can cultivate rice. The Governor further canvassed greater collaborations among state governments to help achieve nationwide food security and promote national development. He called for greater funding of the sector and for it to be recognized as real business.

Justifying why agriculture should be treated as a business, Bagudu cited instance of Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) which got N4 trillion funding from the federal government solely to clear bad debts. “When the AMCON was created in 2010, it was to take over bad loans from the commercial banking system. It was paid N4 trillion. That money was not agricultural related, it oil and gas and share certificates.

“So that spending of N54 billion has resulted in the magic we have seen in terms of food production, I think it is a bigger story than the occasioned repayment challenges.”

Speaking on the ABP, he said 70,000 Kebbi rice farmers were supported with six bags of fertiliser each, summed to 420, 000 bags. 140, 000 water pumps were required at two pumps per farmer. “The objective of the model is to have Nigerian rice which later beat Nigeria’s imaginations and it contributed to our exit from recession in a short time.

“Secondly, it was targeted to create employment which it did. When you give 70,000 farmers supports, there are bound to be defaults. Farmers are businessmen like in other sectors.”

Reacting to impact of the programme, the Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, “I tell you, as we speak today, Thailand rice growers are making passionate appeal to the Federal Government. What they are doing now is that they want to set up rice mills in Nigeria, which means we have won!”

When asked again to explain why Thailand rice producers were pushing to set up rice mills in Nigeria, Mohammed replied, “Yes, Thailand wants to set up several rice mills in Nigeria because we have stopped importing from them.”

Mohammed stated that the government was looking at how to cut down the price of locally produced rice, adding that Nigeria would soon attain self-sufficiency in food production.

“Also, we must look at how we can bring down the price of domestically produced rice. And one of the things we are being told today is that if we have gravitational water, it is going to help a lot. So these are areas we are looking at in order to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production.

 

“So the fact that we are now growing the number of our farmers and reducing rice imports, it means that we are getting closer to the target of self-sufficiency in rice and food production as a nation. We have 32 states producing rice in Nigeria and they use the CBN Anchor Borrowers model,” He said.

Climate Change militating against agricultural productivity  

Contrary to popular claims on farmers herders clashes, Kebbi State Governor, Alh Abubakar Bagudu attributed climate change as being responsible for the persistent clashes in the country. He denounced religion and ethnicity as main factors, responsible for killings stressing that the problem has extended to shrinking of water resources, thus affecting livelihood of fishermen.

“The Minister and I have always spoken on the farmers and herders clashes. I told him to bring journalists around and I’m sure that the reality of the problem will be brought out clearly.

“The narrative out there that it is either a religious or ethnic problem is far from the truth. It is not tribal. To me, it is a climate change problem, pure and simple. The occupational practice of our fishermen, what they used to do and how can move longer be conducted in that manner because the water resources are no longer available.”

The persistent attacks are such that have caused social disorder and disharmony in the country.   

Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed said the visit to Kebbi was to showcase federal government achievement in terms of rice production. He said sharing the success story will be incomplete without acknowledging efforts of the Kebbi state government and the farmers.

“We are here to tell Nigerians and the world the giant strides the Kebbi state government has made. The history of the FGN agriculture revolution will not be complete without kebbi state.

“In the past few years, the state government has revolutionalised the sector. That’s why we invited the media to see and showcase the great stride in Kebbi state in terms of rice production.”

The minister noted that the gesture is being replicated in other states, and it’s part of efforts to achieve the rice sufficiency target. According to him, there are about 5 million rice farmers in the state while 31, 000 rice farmers are being empowered in Kano state.

Partnership to revive Argungun fishing festival

Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bagudu, during the visit disclosed plans to partner with the federal government to revive the popular Argungun fishing festival.

The fishing festival was earlier suspended in the state due to Boko Haram insurgency. But Bagudu, who emphasized importance of the festival to attracting tourists, revealed on going moves to seek supports from both private and public sector and make the festival an international affair.

“We always avoid the raining season and there are lots of infrastructure decay and accommodation problem because of the suspension, so we want to upgrade them all. That’s what we are doing with the federal ministry of Information,” said. 

This Article was First Published in The Nation

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