By Wole Mosadomi
Nigeria is good at making good policies in all aspects of life. It is however unfortunate that we are bad implementors.
Sometimes, when you hear or read policies or paper presentations of our leaders on topical issues, one is quick to conclude that all is well on that sector.
It is still sad to discover that the country after many policies on education, Power generation, Transport especially railway, Education, Health, Water, Agriculture to mention a few, nothing seems to have been achieved on these sectors and many others.
Recently, the federal government took another step in tackling the insufficiency in rice production in the country despite all the gifts of life to enable us become one of the leading rice production nations in the world.
Permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, Alhaji Salihu Aliyu Gusau while launching Nigerianâ€™s National Rice Development Strategy Document (NRDS) in Minna , Niger state said available data indicates that annual milled rice demand in the country stands at five million tones with a national deficit of 2.79 million tones.
Not only that, he revealed that the country has an estimated 4.6m hectares of land that is suitable for rice production but that only 1.8m hectares or 30% is currently developed for the crop pointing out that out of the land suitable for the cultivation, about 3.14m hectares is irrigable while less than 50,000 hectares is currently under rice irrigation.
He said though the potential for rice production in the country is enormous but that if all hands are put on deck, the country will not only be self sufficient in rice production but also be an exporter.
Alhaji Gusau said steps already taken by the federal government is a target of cultivating 12.85 tones of rice by the year 2018 from the 4.179 millions tones it met in 2008.
He said as at now, the annual milled rice demand in the country stands at five million tones while domestic production is about 2.21 million tones thus having a national deficit of 2.79 million.
Gusau also remarked that Niger state being a leading rice producer in the country is to benefit from a technical assistance of the Korean International Co_operation Agency which is to establish a modern rice processing complex in Bida, Niger state and two other large scale rice processing plants in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement of the federal government under the N10b special rice processing International Fund.
But as good as these plans are just like similar pronouncements by the previous administrations, Niger state governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu warned that the plans may be an exercise in futility if the root causes of the problems militating against the success of the past programmes are not unraveled.
In his address at the occasion, the governor warned that â€œthe target or vision of government may equally fail like many others unless the cartel frustrating local rice production is fought to a standstill.â€
In his word of caution, Dr. Aliyu observed that some Nigerians have constituted themselves into a cartel frustrating government aims and objectives saying, â€œTheir main aim is to reap where they did not sow and invariably cause untold hardship on millions of Nigerians.â€
â€œIs it not a shame that with our land mass, adequate rainfall and human resources, we are still importing rice into the country when we are capable of producing enough for our local and importation; is it not also a shame for us to be importing fuel when we are one of the largest oil producers in the world,â€ the governor asked.
Dr. Aliyu pointed out that as long as these groups of people are in existence, they will continue to impose their wishes on us because of their selfish gains thereby making our dream of becoming self sufficient in food production unrealizable.â€
Efforts By Niger State Government On Rice Production: – The state was adjudged the largest rice producer in the country some years ago and it has been trying to maintain the lead.
The state commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Aminu Yusuf in his address at the occasion said as part of efforts by the state government to promote rice production in the state, the ministry has taken an inventory of all existing rice farmersâ€™ cooperatives in the state last year aimed at identifying the appropriate interventions required in the area of paddy, agro_input supply, paddy processing and market support.
He said in all, 3,129 rice farmer groups clustered into 418 unions have been identified during the survey and consequently, government has reached them by providing comprehensive agric-support services and input supply.
Government according to him has also payed more attention to the development of irrigation infrastructure across the state in order to facilitate accelerated rice production in the state.
As at now, feasibility studies have been completed on nineteen existing irrigation schemes in the state aimed at commenting their rehabilitation and providing necessary facilities to ensure maximum utilization for the benefit of the farmers.
Alhaji Aminu pointed out that since government cannot do it alone; it has gone into partnership with a foreign farm which has resuscitated the Badeggi rice mill.
Government has also made available a suitable piece of land in Bida for the establishment of a paddy rice processing mill under a Technical Assistance by the Korean government under the auspices of the National Food Reserve Agency.
The rice mill which will be operational this year and which is expected to be run by Korean technical team for about two years will be transferred to the state after training the indigenes.
â€œIt is quite clear from the foregoing that Niger state is not only ably qualified as the first state of choice for the launching of the programme but is also fully ready to serve as the first test ground for the implementation of the new National Rice Development Strategies Document with the support of the federal government and the intervention of our development partner,â€ the commissioner declared.