With oil not able to sustain the economy anymore, attention is shifting to agriculture which, decades ago, was the propeller of the then buoyant economy. This is one of the reasons the President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, made a foray into productive agriculture. Last week, he launched his Dangote Rice Outgrowers Scheme in Hadejia, Kafin-Hausa local government area of Jigawa State.
Starting with 20,000 hectares of rice cultivation under the scheme, known as Outgrowers, to be expanded to cover 800, 000 hectares over the next three years, Dangote said time is now to turn to agriculture to save the nation’s economy.
The business mogul commenced the scheme with the distribution of treated rice seedling for planting to 5,000 farmers.
He explained: “We are committed to the development of the Outgrower scheme by providing local, value added products and services that meet the ‘basic needs’ of the populace. To this end, the Dangote Rice Farm Ltd will run an initial pilot in Hago-Fadama, Kafin Hausa and Auyo areas which would see Dangote Rice developing small hold farmers by providing quality inputs (certified seeds, fertilizers, agro-chemicals and petrol), improved agricultural practices and technology to increase yield and produce quality rice paddy which would also be bought back from them by Dangote Rice Limited. The Outgrower programme in Jigawa is expected to create more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs to the host communities.”
Over the period, aside the Outgrowers aspect of the investment, he explained, Dangote Rice is planning to plant approximately 150,000ha of long grain white rice and produce near one million tons of high quality par boiled white rice for sale in the Nigerian market.
“Our internal policy within Dangote Rice Ltd is to procure 30% of our Rice production from local farmers who will be developed into outgrower groups. These Outgrowers will be simultaneously developed alongside our commercial farming operations.”he said.
Dangote continued:”Before the discovery of oil, our economic was built around potentials from our palm oil, groundnut, cotton, and rubber plantations. Now the price of oil has plummeted from a peak of $116 per barrel in June 2014 to as low as $29 per barrel in January 2016, this means there is huge loss of revenue to the government”. Dangote said Nigerian agricultural commodities and food imports bills has averaged over One Trillion Naira in the past two years in 2013 and 2014, with foods like sugar, wheat, rice, fish accounting for 93 per cent of the total cost of imports, a situation he described as unacceptable for anyone who loves the country”.
He disclosed that the Dangote Rice Outgrowers Scheme has been designed as a one stop solution for the value chain.
In his remark during the rice seedling distribution, Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heneiken Lokpobiri, lauded the initiative of Dangote, saying the intervention in the government efforts at providing food security for the citizenry, creating jobs and reducing dependency on food importation was being boosted.
Lokpobiri explained that D20 billion is spent on importation of food items that could be produced locally, a situation he said Dangote Rice investments would help to reduce.
Also speaking, the Special Adviser to Alhaji Dangote on Rice and Coordinator of the Outgrowers Scheme, Mr. Lulu Carlos, stressed that 6.1mmt of rice is consumed annually but not more than 2.6 million metric tons are produced locally leaving the rest to importation.
Lulu said: “We are happy to start today the partnership with the first Outgrowers bloc of 200 hectares, shared among eight communities. I’ve seen the same project born in my country, Brazil, whereby from 2.5 Mt tons in the beginning to today where we reached 9 tons of paddy rice per hectare in productivity.
“This has transformed our country (Brazil) from a net importer of rice in 2000 to a ne t exporter in 2009. This was achieved through a big out grower scheme in the rice region which, today, involves thousands of independent farmers responsible for 80% of the 12 million tons locally produced rice and a small number of large Commercial farms supplying the remaining 20%.
“Also, Alhaji Aliko, has instructed me to conduct the project here for at least 30% from out growers and 70% from our commercial farm to be established in the state. But this is not our limit. We are today convinced that this equation will have more and more out growers participation in the future, due to very good and welcome response we are getting from all the communities we are dealing with”.
Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Badaru Muhammed Abubakar, thanked the Dangote Rice Limited for choosing Jigawa as the pilot state for the project. He pledged the readiness of his administration to provide all necessary support to the project.