‘Nigeria needs sustained investments to attain rice sufficiency’

03.07.2018

Ade Adefeko is the vice president- corporate and government relations, Olam Nigeria. Adefeko tells JOSEPHINE OKOJIE, in this interview, that Nigeria’s rice sufficiency depends on increasing Nigeria’s level of mechanisation use and the provision of improved hybrid rice varieties to farmers.
The Buhari’s administration has focused on increasing rice production through its Anchor Borrowers Scheme (ABS). What is your assessment of the scheme?

The Anchor Borrowers Scheme (ABS) has been quite a laudable initiative. There has been a huge effort and focus to increase rice production and productivity to improve farmers’ livelihood. The scheme did reasonably well in achieving its targets in selected states but the recoveries and pay back of loan cannot be said to be at satisfactory levels. This has created doubts on sustainability but a huge step forward nonetheless.
There are reports that Nigeria has increased its local rice production. How true is this and if yes where are the multiplier effects?

Yes we have increased our local production and millers are now able to easily buy paddy for their milling operations. Farmer incomes have gone up dramatically especially in the rural areas and is thus commendable. A lot of agro companies are also increasing their production and investment across the rice value chain.
How can local rice varieties compete favourably with other imported varieties especially in pricing?

Local varieties are well accepted in the market and are as good as any international varieties. Cost of production is unfavorable at present due to infrastructural deficiencies such as high cost of transport, inputs, and low yields among others. Olam is a market leader here with its variants of Mama’s Pride and Mama’s Choice with 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50kg.
What is the problem with the Nigerian rice industry; is it milling or production?

Both milling and production are contributing factors. Having said that, both are improving as farmers are producing more and milling capacity is also increasing. The major problem is smuggling from Republic of Benin and Niger. Close to 2 million tons gets smuggled across the borders thus undermining local producers and millers

Lack of higher yielding better varieties is still a problem. Quality of foundation and certified seeds are constraints. Lack of tractors for land preparation and harvesting and threshing are still major issues. These are directly related and are challenges to productivity increase.
The government says that the country will be rice sufficient in 2020. How realistic is this target?

Nigeria’s 2020 rice sufficiency target would not be realistic as the demand for rice grows as the population increases. Our population is increasing very fast and per capita consumption of rice is also increasing. As is evident from the current focused approach, the production and supply to the market are increasing but still would take a few more years for Nigeria to become self-sufficient because of its fast growing population. What is noteworthy however is that the journey has started and at current pace the destination is not far off provided we sustain the momentum.
What impact has Olam had in boosting Nigeria’s rice production?

Olam has contributed to the self-sufficiency drive through increased production of rice from its own nucleus estate in Nasarawa State (covers 10,000 Ha) and through a well-established out-growers scheme in Benue, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Taraba states.

The volume of paddy processed to the capacity of 200,000 MT has given over 100,000 MT of high quality rice for domestic market. This is close to 2 per cent of the supply against demand of rice in the country. This has ensured forex savings as well contributed to the food security agenda of the Federal Government.
How has insecurity impacted on Olam’s rice operations as its rice farms are located in Nassarawa, Benue and Taraba states?

The spate of insecurity had partially affected the 2017 wet season procurement but it has greatly impacted on the 2018 wet season now especially in the above three states. This might negatively impact the 2018 season more on the cultivable areas reducing the area under cultivation.
How is Olam supporting smallholder farmers in the country to boost their rice production?

Olam runs a well-knit out-growers scheme in partnership with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Incentive-Based Risks Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), GIZ and farmer cooperatives. Olam also provides farmers with all inputs and train them on Global Agricultural Practices (GAP) and FBS through a decentralized model of buy back at prevailing market prices. The fully supported out-growers scheme had 9,295 hectares cultivated by 6,967 farmers in Benue, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Taraba states in 2017. We supplied N560 million worth of inputs to farmers, bought back 29,492 MT of paddy worth of N3.3 billion paid directly to farmers, and generated 4,648 regular employments during the crop cycle of 120 days.

Olam has contributed significantly in generating higher income to the farmers thereby increasing the economic activities resulting in better livelihood in the rural communities where it operates.
How many smallholder farmers are currently under Olam’s out-growers scheme?

We have 6,967 farmers who were direct beneficiaries of Olam out-grower scheme in 2017 and we are expected to have more than 10,000 farmers by end of 2018.


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