A novelty was introduced to the nation’s drive towards self sufficiency in food production on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 when Lagos and Kebbi States launched the much-awaited LAKE Rice.The initiative is a partnership between Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State and his Kebbi State counterpart, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, not only to ensure food security but to showcase Nigeria’s potentials in rice production.
At the event which was marked with fanfare at Lagos House, Ikeja, Governor Ambode described the attainment as great and historic moment for both states and Nigeria. Compared to what obtains in the market, the rice is to be sold at a reduced and affordable price.
Both Lagos and Kebbi State governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) in March 2016, to produce Nigerian rice in response to President Muhammadu Buhari’s admonition on food production in the country. Unlike imported rice that has five to six years storage life span, LAKE rice is fresh. The partnership is expected to expand the rice production for Lagos that has the largest consumption market to absorb it. A 50kg bag of the rice sells for N12,000, 25kg costs N6,000 while 10kg is N2,500. The Federal Government has donated two rice mills to Lagos State in order to increase next year’s production.
The foresight of Governors Ambode and Bagudu in coming up with the idea is commendable and worthy of emulation by other states. The addition of LAKE rice to the local varieties like Abakaliki and Ofada rice is a major leap towards self sufficiency in food production. Nigeria should no longer be a dumping ground for expired imported rice. The LAKE rice came on board at an opportune moment during the last Yuletide when prices of commodities were sky bound .
The market price of other 50kg bag of rice then was betweenN18,000-N22,000. Despite high expectations, very few Lagos residents were able to buy the rice at designated selling points which were characterised by winding queues. Designating a selling point to serve an entire Local Government Area and demanding bank teller instead of cash made the whole process cumbersome.
We call on the state government to decentralize the sale outlets and make the purchase seamless. The LAKE rice should not be a seasonal affair. It should be available at all times for people to buy. Officials who are in charge of distributing and selling the rice should be monitored to guard against unwholesome practices that may defeat the purpose of the laudable effort.
Beyond this, if the potentials and capacity are well annexed, the collaboration can catapult Nigeria to a big market in Africa, especially with Kebbi’s comparative advantage in production and Lagos’ consumption market. The joint venture can be replicated with other commodities like cocoa, soya beans and sorghum.