By Wole Mosadomi
MINNA â€” The Federal Government has set a target of cultivating 12.85 tonnes of rice by 2018 as against the 4.179 millions tonnes cultivated in 2008 just as Niger state governor, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu said the target might be a failed project like many others unless the cartel frustrating local rice production is fought to a standstill.
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, Alhaji Salihu Aliyu Gusau, in his address at the launch of Nigerians National Rice Development Strategy Document, NRDS, in Minna, Niger State said the programme would place priority on post-harvest handling and processing; land development and irrigation; seed development and other production inputs’ supply.
He said available data indicate that annual milled rice demand in the country stood at five million tonnes while domestic production was about 2.21 million tonnes with a national deficit of 2.79 million tonnes, adding that â€œmost of this quantity has to be imported to bridge the supply and demand gap.â€
He said the country had an estimated 4.6m hectares of land that were suitable for rice production but that only 1.8m hectares or 39 per cent were currently developed for rice cultivation, pointing out that of the land suitable for rice cultivation, about 3.14 million hectares are irrigable but less than 50,000 hectares is currently under rice irrigation.
He said though the potentials for rice production in the country were enormous, if all hands were on the deck, the country would not only be self-sufficient in rice production but also an exporter.
Gov Aliyu cautions
Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, however, cautioned that in as much as the programme was laudable, the target could only be realisable if the cartel frustrating government aims and objectives was eliminated.
He said a few Nigerians had constituted themselves into a cabal whose aim is to reap where they did not sow and invariably cause untold hardship on millions of Nigerians.
According to the governor, â€œis it not a shame that up till now we are still importing rice into the country despite all our potentials to produce enough for local consumption and export?
Is it not a shame for all our refineries to be grounded and for us to be importing fuel when we are one of the largest producers of this commodity in the world?â€
Aliyu said as long as these groups of people impose their wish on us because of their selfish gains, our dream of becoming self sufficient in food production may not be realizable saying, â€œYou cannot talk of food security if you donâ€™t produce it.â€
Stakeholders in agriculture across the country and outside attended the launching.