Rice production in Kebbi has increased by 300% —Farmers

Nigeria’s vision to lift thousands of smallholder farmers out of poverty and increase levels of rice production from 50 per cent to at least 70 per cent by 2020 may become a reality a little earlier than anticipated, farmers in Brinin Kebbi, Kebbi State have told the Nigerian Tribune.

The farmers, who were speaking during independent interviews on Tuesday, said if the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) initiative, the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) was sustained, Nigeria could feed itself earlier than 2020.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Nigerian Tribune at his Labana Rice Mills Ltd office, the General Manager, Abdullahi Zuru, said through the programme, Brinin Kebbi currently expects to produce one million tonnes of rice in six months, as against less than 400,000 tonnes it previously produced.

While explaining how Nigeria could meet the 2020 target, Zuru reasoned that if Kebbi could produce one million tonnes of rice in six months, Sokoto and Zamfara states, which have dams that Kebbi does not have, could produce 1.5 million tonnes respectively.

He said if other rice-producing states join in, the country could significantly lower its import bill on rice in the country.

Zuru, who said the company he works for produces 16 tonnes of rice per hour, said that it has 5,000 rice farmers under the ABP programme, who supply the company rice as at when needed.

Speaking on the economic implication of the programme on the rice farmers in the state, Zuru said farmer who previously sold 75kg of paddy at N5,500 now sell the same for N10,000, an indication to economic improvement in the farmers’ lives.

He also said rice production had improved by 300 per cent in the last six months.

According to him, “farmers have been empowered beyond expectation. The people are now more motivated to produce rice as they can see that the fight against importation is real and rice millers now have ease of access to paddy rice without having to scout around anymore. Rice farmers are now kings, which has not happened in 100 years, if I may say so.”

These, according to him, are factors responsible for improved rice production.

It will be recalled that the APB, launched in November 2015 in Kebbi State, by President Muhammadu Buhari, is aimed at creating economic linkages between over 600,000 smallholder farmers and reputable large-scale processors with a view to increasing agricultural output and significantly improving capacity utilisation of integrated mills, the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele had said during the launch.

The N40 billion programme is expected to close the gap between the levels of local rice production and domestic consumption, as well as complement the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) Scheme of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture by graduating GES farmers from subsistence farming to commercial production, Emefiele had said.

From what the farmers who spoke with the Nigerian Tribune are saying, it seemed that Nigeria could be on the right track on food security for subsistence and export, Aminu Abubakar, a farmer on 20 hectares of rice farm said on Tuesday.

According to him, Kebbi, the pilot state for the ABP programme had experience improved harvest in the last six months, as well as “economic improvement.”

He said if sustained, more than 70,000 farmers who are currently under the state government could be multiplied to produce more rice in shorter period of time.

Abubakar, who praised the programme, said currently, Kebbi farmers now produce more than seven tonnes of rice per hectare, the first in the history of the state, according to him.

On Monday, Muhammadu Garba had told the Nigerian Tribune that rice production had improved by more than 200 per cent in the last six months, thanks to the training received prior to planting season.