Feature: Nigeria needs a National Rice Production Plan

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By Ayo Akinfe

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Has any of the Nigerian presidential candidates come up with a national rice production plan?

[1] Over the last decade, rice has been a major economic topic in Nigeria. We have made so much about the fact that we have expanded production and how we will soon be self-reliant. As you all know, one of the main reasons why President Buhari shut our borders is because of the influx of cheap Asian rice via the port of Cotonou

[2] We must give credit to states like Kebbi where they have opened rice milling plants and are gathering produce from local farmers to process. Basically, they are using the same template introduced by Alhassan Dantata when he built the groundnut pyramids of Kano

[3] Across Nigeria, we have expanded rice production significantly expanding output to 5.8m tonnes a year but hey, it is all upland rice. Can someone please explain to me why we are not producing lowland rice on the same scale? We consume 8m tonnes of rice a year, so if we produced the same amount of lowland rice as we did upland rice, we would be a net exporter

[4] Kebbi State alone says it is now producing 2.5m tonnes of rice and is the biggest producer ahead of Benue, Ebonyi, Ekiti and Jigawa states. Kaduna, Kano and Ogun are also major producers. However, no significant quantities of rice are produced in our marshlands, especially in the Niger Delta, which ideally, should be a production haven

[5] If you look at the world’s largest rice producers such as India, China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, the Philippines, Cambodia, and Pakistan, most of their production takes place in riverine areas. Vietnam’s Mekong Delta for instance produces 20m tonnes of rice a year

[6] I am at a loss as to why we are not growing lowland rice on our coastal plains. I know some parts of the Niger Delta have been polluted by oil spills but let us be honest, it is not everywhere. For instance, there is no oil pollution in Akwa Ibom State and the Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River State which borders Cameroon is totally pollution-free

[7] Can someone please tell me why the whole area from Oron in Akwa Ibom State to Ikot-Nakanada in Cross River State is not one huge rice paddy field? We could have the world’s largest rice milling plant in Calabar that will process it for export

[8] Across Asia, they are now growing rice in streams that contain fish, which boosts output for both fish and rice. The fish droppings serve as manure, while the rice protects the fish from predators. These paddy fields also serve as a major source of methane gas

[9] On top of this, there is then deepwater rice, which is grown in flooded conditions with water more than 50cm deep for at least a month. This can easily be grown in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers states

[10] Vietnam generates about $3.15bn in rice export revenue a year. Now Vietnam’s Mekong Delta covers an area of 40,577 km², while our Niger Delta covers 70,000 km2. Am I missing something here? They are a net exporter and we are a net importer.

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