The Nigeria Farmers Group and Cooperative Society (NFGCS), has moved to create a larger market window for farmers by aggregating rice paddy across Nigeria to meet increasing demand occasioned by borders closure.
A rice paddy is an irrigated or flooded field where rice is grown.
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The National Coordinator of the group, Mr Tedheke Retson, made this known in an interview with Newsmen in Abuja on Monday.
Retson said the move, beyond meeting the increasing demand for rice, was meant to encourage more Nigerians to go into rice farming without being afraid of how to dispose of the commodity.
According to him, the group’s farm, sitting on more than 3, 000 hectares of land, is a farm settlement with state-of-the-art rice processing plants and a ready market to comfortably take off the burden of selling the commodity.
He said: “We are currently short by about five million metric tonnes of rice every year.
“With the closure of borders, the Federal Government made it possible and easier for groups like ours to take that lead to get involved and make things happen.
“We are currently producing about 2, 000 of 25 kg bags of rice in a day and we are moving from that to excess of about 10, 000 bags every day before the end of the first quarter of 2020.
“As it stands, we cannot meet the demand. We are aggregating paddy rice across the country. So, opportunities are created for those who are farming rice, for processors and those who are selling.
“We have brought in de-stoners with the capacity of de-stoning about three trailer loads of rice in a day, polishers with the capacity of polishing about three trailer loads a day.
“There are also whiteners that will ensure that the rice is clean from all forms of particles without adding chemicals, and we have also brought in colour sorters to separate brown from white and white from black.
“All of these upgrades have increased our capacity to about 100 tonnes of rice every day. We are working to get two processing mills with the capacity of 200 tonnes a day. So, in no distant time we will be doing about 300,000 tonnes of rice in a month.”
The coordinator hailed the border closure saying it was a blessing for small holder farmers, small rice producers and rice marketers in Nigeria, noting that it was only smugglers who were not happy with the development.
He called for total support for local production to boost the revenue base of the country while improving Nigerians’ standard of living.
“If we support local producers in Nigeria, there is absolutely no way we will not add more to our value process, job creation and making Nigeria a better place for the over 200 million people.
“The boost in demand for local rice is occasioned by the shutting down of the borders. It has encouraged local farmers to see it as a profitable venture, he said.
Retson, however, called for an enabling environment to encourage competition among local producers.
“The farmer from Thailand, India, Pakistan and Singapore, sells his rice lower than what we are selling in Nigeria because the government subsidises it, and so ends up making more money and gets cheap loan also because policies favour him.
“We need those favourable working conditions for our processors to make money. It is good we are no longer importing rice, what is next is to make loan cheaper for farmers of rice and making the environment more conducive by providing power supply.
“This farm operates on diesel every day, we spend on the average of N450, 000 to buy diesel every week. We do not need to bear that cost. If we have light on the farm and we are spending on the average of N400, 000 in a month we are okay.
“The point is most of these variables need to be solved so that we can maximise the potentials that are available in the closure of borders. A farmer cannot construct road, provide power, employ labour and make money,’’ he said.
According to him, Nigeria with about 84 million hectares of arable land and more than 200 million people is battling to ensure food security.
“More needs to be done to put Nigeria on the path of food security, job sustainability among others.
“ This farm is an eye opener that everything is possible with the potentials we have,” he said.
On funding, the national coordinator called for single digit loans that would make farmers break even and compete favourably with their counterparts globally.