By Franklin Alli
Olam Nigeria Limited has concluded plans to kick-start milling of 200,000 metric tonnes of paddy rice in Doma Council, in Nassarawa, by June 1, this year. General Manager, Olam Rice, Reji George, who disclosed this said the milling is part of the company’s backward integration plan in the sector and it expected to aid local rice production, self sufficiency target and job creation efforts of government.
Olam’s Business Head for Rice, Anil Nair, added that the launch of the company’s brand of rice in the Nigerian market earlier this year was designed to meet growing local demands for the commodity as well as reduce its importation. He explained that the launch of the commodity in Lagos was strategic since the state holds the largest market of consumers of rice.
“There are lots of paddies been produced and Lagos being the biggest market in the country is having local rice coming to it. It is a sign of good things to come and we hope that two years from now, we will be able to bridge the gap. We have a milling capacity of about 800,000 tonnes in the country and we hope to help this country eliminate import completely,” he said.
Fielding questions on placing a total ban on the commodity, George said, “I believe it should be a gradual process. Before you ban rice or any agricultural commodity you must have to develop the local strength of rice production. If you plan the ban of importation of rice, companies like Olam is into commercial production of rice with 6,000 hectares in two cities, making it 12,000 hectares that would definitely help bridge the demand and supply gap, and with support from other companies, in addition to the role government is playing.
“In few years time, we would be able to bridge the demand and supply gap and we would be able to be self sufficient in rice production.” The community leader of a settlement in the Doma area, Kushunta Adi, said, ”Before the coming of Olam to our community, most people in this area were idle, which is not good, but today, the story is different.