By Daud Olatunji
Ogun State has joined rice producing states with the launch of its Mission To Rebuild Ogun State, MITROS, Ofada rice.
Not less than 110,000 bags of Ofada rice from the three mills machines installed across the three senatorial districts of the state were unveiled.
The launch attracted the Presidential Task Force on Agricultural Commodities and Production, led by Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State, to the Agro Services Centre, Asero, Abeokuta, the state capital.
Historically, Ofada rice is exclusively grown in a town called Ofada but abandoned.
It has now been revived by Ogun State government to boost food security.
The government said the gesture was part of the efforts to achieve its goals in the agricultural sector.
Bagudu, while unveiling the rice, commended the state government for keying into the Federal Government’s food security initiatives.
According to him, Nigeria can produce rice in large quantities, just as it had achieved so much in oil production, while saving a lot of forex if the people eat what they produce. “For those who are conversant with Nigerian history, particularly at a time when we had the Presidential Committee on the Importation of Rice, this represents such a paradigm shift of government that is visionary and committed to the nation”, he said.
“Nigeria is a blessed nation. All the 36 states can produce rice including, of course, the FCT. With rice, I believe we can achieve what we achieved in oil.
“Around the world, about 600 million metric tons of rice is produced every year. In Nigeria, we produce a little less than 10 million. Our land size estimates by the Rice Farmers Association indicated that there are about 12 million rice farms suggesting that even if an average yield per farmer is a modest five tons, we should be producing 50 million metric tonnes not under 10 million metric tons that we are currently producing.
“Over the last few years, we have seen yields from as low as 1.5 metric tons per hectare per farmer going to as high as nine and 10 tonnes, which is comparable to yields achievable in the best places where rice is produced. That establishes our competitiveness.
“People quite often mistake competitiveness as being the lowest cost produced, that is not necessarily so. Nigeria has the ability to produce rice competitively and currently there’s no nation that can produce rice cheaper and deliver it to Nigeria and to be imported properly and compete with that rice produced by Nigerian farmers.
“It is important for all of us to mobilise to patronise Nigerian rice and Nigerian commodity because we know how they are produced, we know the safety standard, we know the freshness compared to commodities whose short life is seldom in excess of seven years unlike MITROS Ofada rice, or LAKE rice, Ebonyi rice or any other rice from any state in Nigeria.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria identifies that the more we fund agriculture, the more the yield will multiply and achieve the level at per with the best in the world”.
In his remarks at the occasion, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, expressed delight at the giant strides recorded by the Ogun government in the production of rice, assuring that CBN would continue to support the agricultural sector to guarantee job creation and enhance the economic growth of the state and country at large.
He recalled that, about twelve months ago, himself, the governor of Kebbi State and the Minister of Agriculture went round the country to see what could be done in terms of achieving the agricultural agenda of the Federal Government.
He said, “During that visit, the governor took us to the three senatorial districts of Ogun State. We saw the fish ponds, we saw the poultries and we saw some farms for rice but he promised that, in no distance time, he was going to invite us and I am happy to be here today to witness this giant strides demonstrated by the rice pyramid that’s right here.
“Ogun State continues to demonstrate the urge to support the focus of the government to create jobs and to grow the economy. A country that doesn’t take agriculture seriously is naturally an unserious country.
“I am happy today that under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, we are taking agriculture very seriously and that is the reason, we, at the Central Bank of Nigeria, have made it a responsibility to say that we will continue to support any effort or attempt by anybody to grow our agricultural sector because, in doing his, we produce food for our people; in doing this, we produce jobs for our people; and, in doing this, we grow our economy.
“The selfish aspect of this, for me, is that it goes a long way to conserve foreign exchange because we will no longer be spending scare foreign exchange to import agricultural produce, we will now tell ourselves that we will eat what we produce and we will produce what we eat.
“Now, having supported thus far what I call primary agriculture to see that we grow rice, we grow cassava, the next phase is to tell ourselves, how do we process these foods, how do we mill the rice, how do we harvest the rice?
“We are going to be looking at providing cheap funding at no more than 5% for those who are going to be assessing facilities to acquire agriculture equipment like thrashers, like harvesters, or those who will be going to fish farming, or those who will be going into feed mills. Be rest assured that if you identify yourself, you will be counted and we will support you”.
Governor Ibikunle Amosun said the commissioning of the MITROS rice processing factory and formal launch of the rice marked a watershed in the annals of the state.
He said the production of MITROS RICE would go a long way to make Ofada rice available, at affordable prices.
Amosun said “I am pleased to note that this rice mills will produce not only parboiled rice, but also a vastly improved brand of Ofada. The new Ofada rice will be produced in a hygienic manner, and to high standards; and it will enjoy standardised packaging – in 1kg, 5kg,10kg, 25kg and 50kg bags – and bear the MITROS stamp of quality, signifying goods produced to the highest standards”.
According to him, the revolution, which foundations were laid by the sons and daughters of the state, had gathered momentum and been bearing fruits in the last six and a half years of his administration.
Amosun said with the milestone, the state had joined the league of rice-producing states in Nigeria, adding that MITROS rice had become part and parcel of the unfolding story of Nigeria’s rice revolution.
“Today is, therefore, not just about the commissioning of a new processing factory – and all its benefits: processing capacity, direct and indirect jobs, economic growth, and so on, – it is also about the unveiling of a new narrative for Ofada rice. The new and improved Ofada rice that this Mill will produce will not only feed our people, but we are confident that it will generate foreign exchange for us, as a nation, and to the brand of Sawonjo, Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State and that of Nigeria” , the Ogun chief helmsman said.
“Indeed, today’s commissioning of our own home-grown rice specie, MITROS Rice, in Ogun State could not have come at a more auspicious time. For one, we are talking about ensuring food sufficiency, and, diversification of the economy from its over-dependence on crude-oil earnings, ensuring not only food sufficiency in Nigeria, but also ensuring a boost in local production of rice.
“Being a staple food in the generality of homes in Nigeria, the boost in rice production will not only conserve our hard-earned foreign exchange through less importation, but will further address the balance of trade in favour of our country.
“It is interesting to note that our dear State has been home to the massive production of Ofada rice, which has been in high demand, not only by the good people of Ogun State but, also throughout Nigeria, and outside the country.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the revolution that is currently taking place in Agriculture, and indeed, all the other sectors of the economy of our dear State is nothing but a result of a careful planning and focused execution. For example, our unwavering commitment to the development of the Agricultural Sector stems from our belief that, food is a basic necessity of life. It is only when man has been fed, that he can start to think of addressing other needs. This is why all
Government efforts at improving the lives of the people are better appreciated when provision of basic necessities like food are guaranteed.
“One of the biggest tragedies of our nation is our dependence on food imports to feed our population, in spite of our abundant arable land and labour force. The impact of this on our economy has been significant: pressure on our
foreign reserves, and by implication the loss in the value of the naira; and the needless outsourcing of agricultural work to distant countries even while large numbers of our people have struggled with unemployment”.