By Rotimi Ijikanmi
Nigeria is inching closer to achieving self-sufficiency in rice production as the present administration targets seven million tonnes
production of the commodity in 2018, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said.
Mohammed disclosed this at a media briefing on Wednesday in Abuja, adding that rice demand in the country as at 2015 stood at 6.3 million tonnes.
He said that due to the success recorded by the administration in local production of rice, importation dropped from 644,131 tonnes in 2015 to about 21,000 tonnes in 2017.
The minister added that as a result of the success recorded in local production of rice, some investors from Thailand had shown interest in establishing rice milling plants in Nigeria.
He explained that “a few years ago, this would not have been possible since Nigeria was not considered a top rice producing country.
“Today, Nigeria is one of the largest producers of rice.”
The minister said that the improvement in rice production across the country did not happen by accident, but largely due to the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
He said that the programme, initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari, was designed to support farmers through inputs distribution and loans to boost rice production.
He said “the increased rice production had, in turn, led to establishment of rice mills, including the 120,000-tonne WACOT Mill in Kebbi and the one-million-tonne Dangote Rice Mill.”
Mohammed said it had been established as fact that “locally-produced rice is safer, tastier and healthier.”
On why the price of locally-produced rice was still on the high side, the minister said that the increased production would eventually bring down the price and succour to Nigerians.
He said that for now, importing rice was cheaper than growing it locally, but that government would not allow Nigeria to become a dumping ground for imported and expired rice.
He added that government would never leave its food security at the mercy of other countries.
The minister assured that with increased interest of foreign investors in local production of rice in the country, government would take pro-active measures to protect the interest of local farmers.