Nigeria has been a major consumer and importer of rice in
Africa. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr.
Akinwumi Adesina recently revealed that the country spends
over N356 billion on yearly importation of rice, out of which
about N1 billion is used per day.
Agric Minister, Akinwumi-Adesina
The country today is a net importer of rice, which had also
adversely affected local production tantamount to the cabal
involved in rice importation.
Akinwumi also stated in an interview with a media organisation
that, “Nigeria, as I said, is running a prodigal consumption
pattern in the sense that we are spending billions of Naira
everyday importing rice from Thailand and India when we can
grow that rice here.
“If you go to Sokoto or to Kebbi , Kano, Katsina, Niger, Kogi,
Ofada rice in Ogun State, down to Abakaliki and to the Niger-
Delta, we have up-land rice, low-land rice, Fadama rice, all types
of rice that can be grown here, yet we are buying rice.”
Challenges in Nigeria’s rice production
Some of the issues include high input costs like cost of credit, and
imported equipment, agrochemicals due to taxes (legal and
illegal), tariffs and duties. There is also the problem of policy
instability (ban, unban, tariffs) that makes decision-making and
planning highly uncertain and put investments at great risk.
Other unattractive conditions include low technology base
(mechanization), decaying infrastructure, high interest rates,
weak institutions (such as poorly-funded research institutes,
public extension system, and seeds certification), and corruption-
ridden fertilizer distribution system and low public sector
investments in agriculture.
The rice farmers have been frustrated with the scarcity and high
input costs. This has led to farmers not using inputs such as
fertilizers and other agrochemicals and those who use them use sub
– optimal proportions of the inputs resulting in low and poor
Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN, has the objectives
of supporting their members on production, processing and
marketing of rice as well as the possibility of supplying inputs
at low prices, but these objectives have not seen the light of the
Access to markets for patronage is at the low side, capacity
underutilization of existing small-scale mills. Obsolete and
inefficient processing technology have remained a serious
challenge in rice production, therefore no value is added to the rice
as it has a kind of smell and unappealing. The rice contains
pebbles and other hard objects.
Poor road network has made it difficult for the conveyance of
paddy to the mills or markets. All these combine with on-farm
constraints to make rice production in Nigeria uncompetitive.
Government’s efforts to stop rice importation
There has been stupendous rice consumption in Nigeria since the
1970s and creating a substantial surge in rice imports since then,
making rice a political commodity in the country.
On one side rice became a critical component of the Nigerian diet
and the other side, a major consumer of the country’s foreign
exchange. The federal government in 1985 imposed a ban on rice
imports in order to facilitate and increase local production of the
precious grain and to meet the high demand for the product.
However, in 1995 the import ban was lifted as the local supplies,
although showing improvement, could not to meet the demand
for the commodity. Therefore lifting of the ban resulted in
incessant importations, and not being affected by duty hikes by
Nigeria has continued to be an attractive market as compared to
other West African markets as it imports parboiled rice which of
relatively higher value unlike other regional countries.
It is indeed lamentable for a country such as Nigeria with huge
human and natural resources (land and water), including capital
has continued to bear the burden of unbearable pain of rice
importation for many decades following huge capital flight and
The industry has turned out to be a shadow of itself as some
government officials had virtually grounded the production of
rice in the country and had connived with some international
businessmen who have continued to milk away the resources that
would have been used to develop and boost rice production.
The current spate of rice importation gives serious concern as the
nation celebrates 53 rd anniversary of its independence.
It is disheartening to see rice importers from India, like the
owners of Stallion Group, the Vasawani Brothers, who won the
coveted national award of Thailand, as ‘Thailand Best Friend’ in
2009, which was handed over by the Prime Minister, Mr. Abhisit
Vejjajiva to the Group’s Managing Director, Mr. Mahesh
Vaswani, as a mark of recognition for importing Thai rice to
Nigeria and other import-dependent African countries.
The over 40-year-old Stallion Group, were amongst the eminent
international rice traders, and was instrumental in promoting
Thailand rice through their extensive sales and distribution
infrastructure penetrating into African markets.
Past administrations had failed to sustain rice production in the
country following the poor implementation of different
agricultural policies such as Operation Feed the Nation, Green
Revolution, School to Farm, and others.
Ordeal of rice farmers
The painful part is rice farmers have been in crisis since the late
1970’s till date as the policies of government do not protect them
from the hostile competition they have been facing from rice
A report has it that rice farmers in Lagos were passing through
hard times as narrated by President, Badagry Rice Farmers
Association, Ibrahim Iroko, who said after harvesting and
processing the rice, everything produced is bought off
immediately by bulk buyers. Iroko who spoke on behalf of all
other farmers at the rice farm explains the business.
He says, “We plant different varieties of rice such as Ofada,
Nerica 8 and Faro 44. The rice we produce is more nutritious than
the imported ones where most of the nutrients have been washed
off during processing.
“Once we harvest and process, people buy off immediately. The
demand is high even for local rice but the quantity we are able to
produce is not much.
The Lagos State Government has been very helpful but we
appeal to the Federal Government to offer help to rice farmers so
we can plant larger quantities by making available tractors,
harvesters, boom sprayers which is needed to spray the farm and
kill weeds at the early stage.
“With mechanisation, farming would become more attractive to
youths as opposed to this growing trend of ‘okada’ business.
“Rice farming without mechanisation is tedious and not so
For instance, when rice is planted today, the following day, the
boom sprayer has to be used to spray herbicides to prevent weeds.
If done, weeds would not come up until about two months later by
which time the rice would have fully grown.
“We plant upland and lowland rice here in Itoga. We have about
51 varieties of rice, but we choose Nerica 8 which matures in 72 days
because the stalk is not so strong to support the weight of birds
perching on it and sucking the milk.
“We normally start planting in March, but due to climate change
we would need irrigation so that when the rain does not come when
it is supposed to, we would not lose our crops.
We are so thankful to the Lagos state government that has
started constructing irrigation facilities, so that rain or no rain,
we can plant rice at least twice a year. We have been planting
only once a year.
“Another major challenge is working capital. With the exception
of some, many of the farmers have just one or two hectares under
cultivation. But one farmer can more easily manage five to 15
”In one hectare, if there is no delay in rain and all goes well, about
have 2. 5 tonnes of rice can be got from one hectare, that is about
100 or 50 bags.
We use 25 or 50 kilo bags. We sell 25 kilo at N3, 500 and 50 kilo
for N7, 000. So about N350, 000 can be realised as gross profit on
one hectare but so many factors can reduce the profit on that.
“Before the rice is harvested, the farm has to be weeded so as not
to harvest weeds with it. About 10 people are needed to weed one
hectare and they get N1, 500 per day. It takes about five days to
weed one hectare. That is about N75,000 on weeding per hectare
alone and there are many other expenses that are incurred.
“So farmers need working capital to cover such expenses. So we
keep imploring the government to provide access to finance so as
to have mass production of food.”
This has been the common experience of rice farmers for many
decades in this country, which is as a result of poor political will
to ensure self-sufficiency in the production, consumption and
importation of rice by Nigerians.
Jonathan’s administration’s policy on rice project
According to the assertion of the Minister of Agriculture and
Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina in a media report,
that the Jonathan’s administration was working hard to reverse
the negative trend of importation by putting in place
mechanisms that will discourage importation of rice and boost
local production of the commodity .
He said, “That is why the President decided that we should have a
self-sufficiency food plan, such as the rice transformation
strategy to make Nigeria self sufficient in rice by 2015.
“There are three things we have to do. First is to produce more
paddy rice, second is to be able to mill that rice at an industrial
quality grade to ably substitute the rice we are importing and
thirdly, we must be able to protect our investors.
“So what we did as soon as I started this job was to scout for
investors for rice. We brought in Dominion Farms, the largest
American rice farm in Kenya. Today, they are investing $40
million on a 30,000 hectare area with the T.Y Danjuma Group in
“In 18 months, that rice farm will produce 15 per cent of all the
rice we are importing into Nigeria and will be the largest rice
farm in Africa. We have also sent 50 young graduates from
Taraba state to Kenya to be trained in commercial rice farming.
“We distributed last year, 11,000 metric tonnes of high quality rice
seeds before the flood and we had produced about 690,000 metric
tonnes of rice paddy in the wet season last year before the flood.
“We also raised the tariff on brown rice and polished rice because
of the need to block corruption. The brown rice attracted five per
cent tariff and polished rice had 35 per cent but people were
bringing in polished rice disguised as brown rice and make 30 per
cent profit before leaving the ports, thereby milking the economy
dry. So we had to raise both tariffs to the same level.
“We want to protect those that are investing in rice production in
the country; we have every natural endowment to be a major
exporter of rice. And within 12 months of launching that policy
by the President, 14 large scale integrated rice mills sprang up
with total capacity of 240,000 metric tonnes.
“We have well branded and packaged rice such as Ebony rice from
Ebonyi state, Umza rice from Kano, Miba rice from Benue and
several other long grained parboiled rice which beats any rice
from India or Thailand. At the least, we should be exporting rice
to all of West Africa after we have met our own self sufficiency
“In November last year, when we started the dry season rice
production in Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Bauchi,Jigawa, Niger,
Kano, Kaduna, we have unleashed a revolution in rice in the
northern Nigeria. Yet, some people are making noise about
getting waivers to bring in more rice. Farmers planted 264,000
hectares of rice in the dry season; we reached 267,000 farmers all by
phone getting their fertilizers and seeds support.
“In just one dry season farming, we had a total production of
1.1mmt of rice while the total demand of the 20 rice mills in the
country is 1.2mmt paddy in a year. For the country to be self-
sufficient in rice, all the additional rice we need to produce is
3.2mmt of paddy.”
Some State governments have been making concerted efforts in
the production of rice, one of such states is Kogi State. According
the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, the government of that state
was able to disbursed N10 million to 300 rice farmers’ cooperatives
under its accelerated rice production project.
The beneficiaries were among the first batch of 1,500 farmers
engaged by the government during the take off of the project on
15 December 2012.
The farmers participated in the cultivation of 3,000 hectares of
rice farms in Galile, Sarki Noma and Okumi in the Lokoja Local
Government Area, and Koton-Karfe area of the state.
These rice farmers have so far harvested over 2, 000 metric tones of
Speaking on the occasion, Gov. Idris Wada, expressed delight
that the accelerated rice production scheme had been a success,
adding that the money disbursed to farmers was their own share
from the sales.
He said that the payment of the money to the farmers was in
fulfilment of the promise earlier made by the government that
the proceeds would be shared at 60-40 per cent ration between the
government and the farmers.
In a way of encouraging and motivating the farmers, Wada,
however, said that government had decided to buy back the
harvested rice at the current market price from the farmers to
ensure food security, saying that money realised from the sale
would be re-invested in the project.
The governor thanked the Federal Government for providing N100
million, 60 water pumps, 350 bags of rice seeds and 750 bags of
fertilisers at subsidised rates to support the project.
The Project Consultant, Anselem Mohammed, said that those
issued cheques had completed harvesting, promising that others
would receive their money after harvest.
The Managing Director of the Kogi State Agricultural
Development Programme (ADP), Dr Ameh Onoja, said that
the success had encouraged the ADP to extend the project to
Ajaokuta, Omala, Idah, Bassa and Ibaji Local Government
Areas, where hectares of land had been cleared and planted.
Onoja, however, identified lack of irrigation, attack by quela
birds and inadequate capacity of farmers as major challenges
confronting the project.
He suggested the training of farmers on dry season farming,
design and construction of canals and channels, establishment of
a farm management system and training of farmer on rice
farming to overcome the challenges and make the project
The Chairman of the Rice Harvesting Committee, Hajiya
Bilikisu Onusagba, said that more than 1 300 bags of rice had so
far been harvested from the rice farms, commending the
government for being transparent and sincere in dealings with
She appealed to the government to sustain the sharing ration of
60-40 per cent to further encourage the farmers.
Onusagba urged the government to address insecurity on the
farms and inadequate farming implements.
2015 Ban on Rice Importation
According to the government, the country must become self –
sufficient in rice in a manner that grows the agricultural sector
and creates jobs. Therefore it was going ahead to ensure the ban
on rice imports as from 2015, at which time the nation would have
attained self- sufficiency in rice production in line with the Rice
Implementation Action Plan.
In implementing the Rice Implementation Action Plan, the
government said it will be on Public Private Partnership bases,
which will the thrust of the sustainability and success of the
Already a private firm, Dominion Farm from Kenya, were
currently investing $40 million in a large scale rice farm in
Taraba State, and according to it, in 18 months 300,000 MT of
rice, which is about 15 per cent of all the milled rice currently
imported into Nigeria.
Another step in actualising self-sufficiency in rice production
and consumption sending 50 young Nigerian graduates from
Taraba State, who were in Kenya training on Dominion Farms
Rice operation, as part of private to learn how to do commercial
While 17 integrated rice mills are being used through Public
Private Partnership arrangement to effect the Rice
Implementation Action Plan.
Some of the mills which are already in operation include the
Ebonyi mills in Ebonyi State, the Labana mills in Birnin Kebbi
and the Deanschanger mill in Badegi, Niger State.
Now, the government of President Good luck Jonathan has come
up to tell the world that Nigeria does not need rice from any part
of the world as it will put to an end to importation of rice by
2015, by enforcing a ban, the question is what are the
infrastructure put in to actualise it, the availability of funds, the
enabling environment for investors in rice production, and how
prepared are rice farmers to key into this lofty dream with just
two years from now to enforce the ban with the cabals in the
sector? Only time will tell.