As President Muhammadu Buhari, Tuesday unveiled the mega Rice Pyramids in Abuja, the Global Director of Bellefu Digital Agro Connect owners of bellefu.com, Olabowale Onamade, said as commendable as the rice project spearheaded by the Central Bank of Nigeria is that the government should also pay attention to other areas of the agricultural sector like post harvest.
Here is an excerpt from the interview
On sustaining the rice revolution project
Nigeria and Nigerians have had a lot of abandoned projects scattered all over the country. Several projects have become moribund due to a lack of consistency in government policy formulation and implementation.
When a particular government begins a project or formulates a policy and could not complete the project or fully implement the policy before the end of its tenure, the incoming administration abandons such project/policy and starts its project which may not be completed as well before the expiration of its tenure.
A good example of this is the LAKE RICE. Where is Lake Rice today? The Lagos state government under former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode signed a partnership with his Kebbi State counterpart, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu. The MoU between the two states for the supply of LAKE (an acronym of Lagos and Kebbi) RICE was birthed in 2016.
Immediately Ambode left office, and barely four years after the launch of the LAKE RICE, it has completely gone off the markets.
To where? Why? These are questions Lagosians and many other Nigerians still ask but with no answer from anywhere or anyone. So, what is the future of the rice pyramids after this present government leave office?
On Post Harvest Loss
In Nigeria, POSTHARVEST LOSSES, PHL, is responsible for wiping out as much as half of the harvests for some crops, particularly perishable crops such as tomatoes, vegetables, and fruits. Some of these losses occur on the farm, during harvest, gathering, and others occur while the commodities are in transit, during offloading, due to poor handling, and in varying degrees in the entire process from farm to fork. It does not end at just perishables, but even commodities such as grains.
Post-harvest losses in Nigeria have been estimated to range between 5 and 20 per cent for grains; 20 per cent for fish and as high as between 50 and 60 per cent for tubers, fruits and vegetables.
Post-harvest loss is not just a crop thing, it affects even dairy, where if one milks a cow and it is not properly preserved or processed within three hours, it will go completely bad.
To handle these losses, more cold storage rooms, silos and other modern storage facilities need to be provided by the government.
Bellefu.com being a digital marketing platform for agricultural produce/products has the potential of helping farmers reduce postharvest losses as it establishes a strong connection among farmers (local and international) and other members of the agricultural family/community.
As per rice in Nigeria, it is currently the leading food crop and is cultivated in all the agro-ecological zones, from the Sahel of the far north, through the Savannah grassland of the north-central to the mangrove and swampy ecologies of the south.
In 2016, the total estimated paddy production in Nigeria was 17.5 million metric tons (MMT) which is equivalent to 5.7 MMT milled rice. This is 1.3 MMT lower than the projected 7.0 MMT national consumption demands.
This implies that Nigeria is progressing towards achieving self-sufficiency in rice if this data is compared with 3.5 MMT milled rice production in 2010.
But about 10% – 30% or more of this increase does not reach the final consumers largely due to inefficient post-harvest management practices.
Huge post harvest grain loss (PHGL) and postharvest grain quality loss (PGQL) have been reported and significant efforts have been made towards reducing them and improving food security, but this is hampered by a lack of simple, cost-effective, adaptable and well-defined practical postharvest management practices and technologies.
On how Postharvest Loss can be handled
According to a study, the main hotspots for post-harvest losses are harvesting and parboiling followed by losses occurring during milling. To handle this issue of PHL effectively, the provision of modern storage and processing facilities such as rice destoners, metal silos and Purdue Improved Crop Storage by the government and NGOs at subsidized rates can help.
Furthermore, UTILIZATION OF RICE HARVESTING/PROCESSING BY-PRODUCTS – the husk, the straw and the bran – should be considered. Rice bran contains 10−23% bran oil. The oily nature makes bran an excellent binder for animal feeds.
Bran oil, once stabilized and extracted, is a high-quality vegetable oil for cooking or eating. The conventional use of rice bran is as an ingredient for animal feeds, in particular ruminants and poultry. In recent years, however, advances in stabilization techniques have been made which has led to new uses for bran and its derivatives, most notably bran oil for cooking and waxes for cosmetic products. Common products from rice husk are solid fuel (i.e., loose form, briquettes, and pellets), carbonized rice husk produced after burning, and the remaining rice husk ash after combustion.
Rice straw can be used in carbonization, composting, fodder, and production of biogas among others.
It is instructive to note that bellefu.com has a training platform where farmers in Nigeria can be trained and exposed to various innovations in agriculture to make good use of the by-products of various agricultural products.
bellefu.com organizes webinars twice a month and farmers can take advantage of these opportunities to learn and increase their knowledge base.