By Emmanuel Elebeke
The federal government says the 34 integrated rice mills across the country now produce about 150,000 bags of rice every day, translating to 35 million bags annually.
Mohammed, who attributed the development to the border closure, explained that the move would hasten Nigeria’s quest to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production, insisting that the border drill has drastically reduced rice smuggling to the country.
‘‘Currently, the integrated mills now produce about 150,000 bags of rice every day, translating to 35 million bags annually. Also, the small scale rice clusters in all parts of the country are now back on stream and feeding their local communities, and the farmers are the biggest beneficiaries.
‘‘Nigeria’s quest to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production will be hastened by the increasing activities in the rice production value chain, thanks to the impact of the border drill.
‘‘Achieving self-sufficiency in rice production will also translate to more jobs for millions of our people as well as cheaper and more nutritious rice for all.’’
With this feat, Mohammed explained that some farmers are now going beyond rice farming and venturing into buying rice paddies and even packaging and marketing, adding that Kano State was chosen for the visit because the state has the highest number of integrated mills in the country, out of the 34 integrated mills in Nigeria.
‘‘We can now tell you, without mincing words, that the border drill has impacted positively on rice production in the country. Before the drill, which some people have referred to as border closure, there were 12.2 million rice farmers in Nigeria, according to the rice farmers association of Nigeria (RIFAN).
‘‘The farmers were cultivating rice twice a year. Now, many rice farmers across the country have started three-times-a-year cultivation in order to meet the increasing demand.
‘‘This is phenomenal. Not only that, at least 6 million people, mostly youths, are now venturing into rice production, meaning that we could hit 18 million rice farmers in No time if the present trend continues. This is positive fallout of the border drill.
‘‘Also, some farmers are now going beyond rice farming and venturing into buying rice paddies and even packaging and marketing. In fact, young farmers are buying small rice mills and off-taking rice paddies from rice farms.
‘‘The impact of the border drill is equally heartwarming. Before the drill started in august 2019, the existing 34 rice mills and the thousands of rice clusters were practically shutting down due to the pervasiveness of smuggled foreign rice into the Nigerian market. in fact, over 200,000 bags of rice were occupying spaces in the warehouses of virtually every integrated rice miller as at that time, according to the rice millers.’’
Continuing, the minister said, ‘‘the story of the small scale rice holders or rice clusters was even worse since they had to abandon their small scale but valuable means of livelihood. The farmers were worst hit. Since the integrated rice millers were already struggling to save their businesses by laying off staff and finding other means to pay off their bank loans with mounting interest rates, buying paddies from rice farmers was almost an impossible task. So the farmers practically stopped farming, with a devastating impact on the income of those farmers and their families.
‘‘But the story changed in august this year when the border drill drastically reduced smuggled rice, thus giving the entire rice production value chain a new lease of life.
‘‘Within one week of the drill, every integrated rice miller exhausted the milled rice in their warehouses, recalled the staff that were laid off and resumed production. All the existing 34 rice mills that we have in the country are now producing at maximum capacity, 24 hours a day.’’
The visit was the third stop since the minister and his team kick-started the media tour to assess the effectiveness of the ongoing border drill in four of the country’s six geo-political zones, and also assess the impact of the drill, tagged exercise swift response, on domestic food production, especially rice.