Nigeria: How Nigeria Can Attain Sufficiency in Rice Production - Owoeye

09.11.2016

As the federal government embarks on measures to boost local rice production in the country, experts are of the view that attaining self-sufficiency in rice production may take long because efforts are not being taken in the right direction.

The chief executive officer of Elephant Group Limited, Tunji Owoeye, speaking in Lagos at a one-day seminar on "Sustainable Agriculture Under Economic Recession," organised by the Nigerian Association of Agricultural Journalists (NAAJ), observed that the gap between demand and supply of rice is huge and that except priority is given to key areas in the production cycle, it would take so long to achieve the dream.

Owoeye, who spoke through a senior partner with OIT Fash Consults, Dr Rotimi Fashola, put national rice demand at an excess of six million tonnes while local farmers total output is barely above three million tonnes, adding that "with our population growth rate the gap would be wider in the next few years if something urgent is not done."

Suggesting the way forward, he noted that countries that are currently self-sufficient in rice production adopted three major strategic initiatives and models that could still be applied in Nigeria. First, he said, irrigation is key to all-year-round rice production and discouraged the practice of rain-fed agriculture that is solely dependent on rain and planting once.

"The rainy season is short, less than five months in some areas," he said, "so we lose the remaining seven months. If you are able to grow a crop that lasts three to four months on the field under irrigation, it means you can grow it at least two times in a year."

Owoeye also said that mechanisation is key to boosting local rice production as it removes the drudgery associated with rice farming and reduces drastically losses during production and at harvest. With mechanised method, production is more efficient while large rice production is better practised as against small parcels of land cultivated by a majority of Nigerian farmers, he explained. He also suggested that government should prioritise production in ecologies that are appropriate for the production of rice. In other words, in places that have water bodies that can support lowland rice production he said farmers should not plant other crops except rice.

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