Promoting Pro-Poor Opportunities Through Commodity and Service Markets (PrOpCom ), a DFID-funded Programme in Nigeria recently gathered stakeholders in rice sub sectors in Ogun State for a one day brainstorming session on how to boost the sub-sector in the state.
Participants were drawn from public institutions, private sector organizations, Central Bank of Nigeria, banks and financial institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Rice Farmers Association (RIFAN), the Academia, seeds companies, actors in the rice value chain, community-based organizations (CBOs) among others.
Ogun State government is keen to boost its rice sector. Rice is one of the six major cash crops identified by government with huge potential to boost economic development of the state.
The state has about 50,000 ha of land that is suitable for rice cultivation. It also lies close to Lagos, which is a huge market with a high per capita rice consumption per year.
In the recent past a private company set up a rice processing facility in the state with a capacity to consume 75,000 tons per year. Therefore, the state needed to increase rice production to meet this processing capacity.
In the past, government had held series of meetings with stakeholders in the rice sector to agree on best strategies for boosting rice production in the state. However there was no concrete result until in 2008 when the state government approached PrOpCom to support the development of rice policy for the state.
As a result, PrOpCom partnered with government and private sector stakeholders such as the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), processors, millers, input dealers, marketers and the research and academic community to develop a policy and strategy document for boosting rice production in Ogun state.
PrOpCom identified a policy expert to develop a draft policy paper.
The expert held in-depth interviews with various private and public sector stakeholders and based on their inputs developed a draft policy document.The draft was reviewed and then finalized by PrOpCom and submitted to the State Ministry of Agriculture.
The ministry after finalizing its review of the document submitted it to the State governor for cabinet approval.
So the stakeholder meeting held last week was to reflect on issues surrounding the rice policy environment in Ogun State as well as the investment potentials in the rice value chain.
The meeting was also to assess the progress so far achieved in the executive processing of the draft Ogun State Rice Policy Investment Strategy which is expected to create an enabling environment for private sector investment in the rice sub_sector.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the meeting, the state commissioner for Agriculture, Engr. Tunji Akinosi, reiterated the state government commitment toward providing an enabling environment that will foster growth in the rice sub_sector and indeed agriculture in general in the state.
While calling for collaboration and partnership among all stakeholders in the agricultural sector as a model for development, he commended the facilitative role of PrOpCom _ DFID in the process leading to the Ogun State Rice Policy.
The Programme Manager, PrOpCom_DFID, Mr. Julian Peach represented by the Catalytic Intervention Manager, Policy, Dr. Victor Oboh said in his address said there was need to adopt the strategic investment policy for private sectors to drive the growth of rice sub sector in Ogun State as the rice sub_sector is an important commodity with the potentials for growing the state’s economy.
But the participants agreed that for the state to grow its economy from rice that certain identified challenges must be taken care of.
They identified the challenges as lack of coordination in the agro_input supply chain of seeds, fertilisers and agrochemicals required by rice farmers; high cost of land clearing due to the vegetation cover of the State, which makes tractor and other heavy duty machines unaffordable by rice farmers and unwillingness of rice farmers to adopt other rice varieties, due to competition between Ofada and other Rice varieties.
They also said inadequate mechanisation of the rice production process in the State that makes rice farming still drudgery is a factor just as inadequate number of extension agents to disseminate technical information to rice farmers.
The rice stakeholders said as a way forward that the state’s executive and the legislative arm should quicken the passage and implementation of the Ogun State Rice Policy document and the establishment of the Ogun State Rice Business Group (OGRBG) that will consist of all public and private sector stakeholders.
The committee, the stakeholders noted , will drive the implementation of the state Rice Policy document through advocacy, sensitisation and mobilisation.
They also called for increased sensitisation of rice farmers to adopt other rice varieties along side Ofada variety which is predominant in the state, just as they want the state government to assist rice farmers in land clearing as its part of infrastructural provision activity.