The President of Paddy Rice Dealers Association of Nigeria (PRIDAN), Muhammad Auwal has said that most farmers in the rural areas are still using the traditional method for rice harvesting and processing.
Auwal said this crude practice had left some Nigerian rice below standard and unable to compete favourably with its foreign counterparts.
Speaking with Nigerian Tribune, Auwal said this outdated method of processing rice has allowed stones and other foreign materials to be seen in the rice even during sales in the market.
He, however, said the PRIDAN was primarily set up in 2013 to standardize paddy rice production in the country so that international best practices are used while harvesting and processing rice.
“The essence of setting up the Association is to standardize paddy rice production in the country and other commodities because 95 per cent of our local farmers or smallholder farmers are using local means of harvesting their produce, some are using drums, tarpaulin and sickle.
“After producing, when they come for harvest, it is always a problem because they are using the traditional method, that is why we find stones, chaff in our rice and other commodities.
“So if it is not totally cleaned, moisture is not controlled, we cannot match standard to international best practice like foreign milled rice imported into the country.
“So, we want to standardize paddy and quality standard because of traceability, so that our products can match international standard”, he said.
He noted that the Federal Government had consequently set up 25 centers across the country, where rice paddy could be cleaned, the moisture content regulated in order to have a standard finished product.
“That is why the Federal government seek investors like ourselves to set up 25 grain centers across the country as a pilot project.
“Some few states were selected for the pilot survey, those who have a comparative advantage on paddy production and other commodities.
“States like Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kogi, Gombe, Nasarawa, Benue and Ebonyi.
“After that, we the investors have been asked to provide a piece of land for the take-off other the structure, after that, machines where imported, and we were asked to provide 10 per cent of the equity contribution which we paid in 2014, and the machines where imported in late 2017 and installation started in 2018 throughout the year up to 2019.
“Out of the 25 centers, 17 centres are fully operational currently, and 8 are about to take off. The centers are equipped with machines like dryer which controls moisture level.
“Aflatoxin found in maize is caused by a high rate of moisture, you know normally when our farmers produce, they keep it in their stores without properly drying it with high-level moisture content, that is why we find aflatoxin.
“So, these centers have dryers that can control moisture level for all commodities. For example, moisture control level for paddy is between 14 to 16 per cent.
“When it is dried, it will be cleaned, we have a cleaner, which cleans all chaff and grasses in the paddy, then after that, you have a standard quality paddy that you can store up to another 6 months to 1 year”, Auwal added.
“So most of the Integrated mills who buy paddy directly from farmers, the paddy they purchase does not have moisture control level. We have moisture control meters all over the centres.
“Some farmers dry their paddy on a bare floor which adds stones to the paddy, so that is why you commonly find some of our rice with stones and other foreign materials which is not as clean as foreign rice.
“About 70 per cent of the rice that we consume in local areas is produced by local processors who are lagging behind on these facilities. So these centres are set up in the rural areas whereby it is very close to farmers clusters.
“We are looking for fund from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) so that we can buy enough paddy, process it, and set up the milling machine because we want to complete the value chain”, he noted.