The number of rice farmers in Nigeria is currently being increased by five million people in order to enhance rice cultivation across the country, the Federal Government has announced.

It said although rice farmers in Nigeria increased from five million to 12 million in the past two years, it was important to attract more people into the business so as to attain sufficiency in rice production.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this during a tour of some rice farms, stated that the government had commenced the cultivation of rice on additional 200,000 hectares of land in different states across the country.

He stated that 25 farmers would cultivate the crop on each hectare, adding that a total of five million farmers would be needed to work on the 200,000 hectares of farmland.

Mohammed further explained that the initiative had commenced in Kano, where 31,000 farmers had been engaged by the Central Bank of Nigeria through the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme.

He said, “We’ve grown the number of rice farmers from five million two years ago to over 12 million today. And there is a pilot scheme going on this season again with 200,000 hectares for the cultivation of rice. Now, each hectare employs 25 people; so that will have another five million people that will be added to the rice revolution.

“We want to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production and the fact that we are now growing the number of our farmers and we are reducing importation means that we are gradually getting to our target of self-sufficiency in food production.

“The cultivation of rice on 200,000 hectares has been flagged off and right now, about 31,000 farmers are being empowered by the CBN under this initiative in Kano this season.”

Mohammed stated that aside from Kebbi State, one of the most popular states involved the project, 31 other states were already planting rice in commercial quantity.

“There are 32 states producing rice in Nigeria and the same model is being used, which is the CBN Anchor Borrowers programme. This programme provides the farmers with seedlings, farm inputs, extension and advisory services, among others. And we can see the result of this programme,” he said.

The minister reiterated that Thailand had commenced moves to establish rice mills in Nigeria, encouraged by the increasing number of farmers and states involved in rice production in the country.

He said the Federal Government had won its fight against rice importation, especially from Thailand, as Nigeria had reduced its importation of rice by over 90 per cent.

“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,” Mohammed stated.

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

He stated that Nigeria was able to cut down on the importation of rice from Thailand from 644,000 metric tonnes two years ago to a little over 20,000MT currently.

Mohammed particularly lauded the Kebbi State Government as he noted that the state was pushing the country’s rice revolution to greater heights.

Speaking alongside the information minister, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Kebbi State, Mohammed Dandiga, said over 200,000 farmers were involved in the cultivation of rice across the 16 local government areas in the state.

He said Kebbi had attained self-sufficiency in rice production and was already supplying the commodity in large quantity to other states of the federation.

Dandiga noted that between December 2015 and March 2018, the volume of rice from Kebbi State has grown from 2.5 metric tonnes per hectare to 11 metric tonnes per hectare.

He said, “For us, this is something very important, considering the impact which it has on wealth creation for these farmers, particularly since the past two years. We are working hard to increase the participation of others who are interested in agriculture because we now have off-takers.

“Nigerian rice is now the preferred choice, unlike what it used to be in the past and this is because we now have standard rice mills in Kebbi and some other parts of the country.”

The President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Aminu Goronyo, recently stated that Nigerians consumed about 7.9 million tonnes of rice in 2017, with the country’s local farmers producing 5.8 million tonnes last year.

Out of this local production, Kebbi State accounted for about one million tonnes last year.

The state government recently stated that with greater investment, especially from the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme and better access to farm inputs, Kebbi planned to raise its rice production to 2.5 million metric tonnes in 2018. Rice is grown mainly in 16, out of the 21 local government areas in Kebbi State.

In August 2017, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo inaugurated a N10bn rice mill in Argungu, Kebbi State, with a milling capacity of 500,000 tonnes.

The Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Bagudu, recently announced that the 200,000 farmers in his state were growing rice on over 400,000 hectares.

He said, “It is heart-warming for us to know that we are able to create wealth for rice farmers and that as a result of the production of rice in Kebbi, Nigeria has been able to reduce its importation of rice by over 90 per cent.

“This is good news and it shows that a lot of people not just in Kebbi State are now producing rice and very soon, we will start exporting the commodity. In Kebbi, there are farmers who are under the Central Bank of Nigeria Anchor Borrowers programme.

“We also have those who work for private companies. A large number of farmers numbering about 200,000 are into rice production in our state and they now cultivate on not less than 400,000 hectares of land across the state.”