From Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin-Kebbi
Rice farmers in Kebbi States have every reason to smile home following an impressive harvest of their produce, despite last year’s tragic floods that ran over an estimated 500,000 hectares of rice farms in the state. State chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Mohammed Sahabi Augie believed the harvest was brought about by their resolve to move on irrespective of the challenges that came their way courtesy of the floods.
He told Daily Sun that since rice farming is not restricted to the rainy season alone, the flood did a lot of damage but did not substantially disrupt the flow of cultivation, which flowed into the dry season. He disclosed that the number of the rice farmers in the state was steadily increasing, an indication that the venture is rewarding enough: “The rise in the number of farmers of rice has also inspired the setting up of additional rice mills in the state.
“Before, it was only Labana Rice Mill, but today, we have WACOT in Argungu, there is another one in Kamba and Dangote Group is planning to establish its rice processing company in Yauri. If these companies have not been getting enough raw materials for their production, that is, enough paddy rice, how could they be establishing more rice milling companies?
“I can tell you today that what we have harvested so far can sustain our rice mills for the next six months. Before they exhaust the available raw materials, we would produce another round of harvest.
“Smuggled rice is cheaper because they do not pay taxes and energy charges. Most of them have stayed for too long time on the high sea, making them a bit unhealthy for human consumption.”
Augie dismissed the claim that Nigeria is ranked as one of the world’s leading importers of rice: “It as another propaganda targeted at rubbishing the Federal Government’s efforts in boosting rice farming and production.
“Nigerians and in fact the rice farmers, have not had it so good.
Today, there are organized markets for rice farmers to sell their paddy rice directly to the companies and make their profit. We do not need to go through these agents and middlemen again, agents who make most of the profits and force us into indebtedness.
“What I think state governments should do now is to introduce their own agriculture initiatives, just as the Federal Government has done with the Anchored Borrowers, which have yielded positive outcomes today. We are getting more new rice farmers and therefore there is need to have more extension service agents to teach our new entrants the required technology and skills needed to grow a rice plantation.”
General Manager, Labana Rice Mills, Birnin-Kebbi, Alhaji Abdullahi Idris Zuru, disclosed that his company receives 25 trucks of 30 metric tonnes of paddy rice everyday for processing and packaging. He noted that his company has 6,000 hectares of land where its farmers engage in the cultivation of paddy rice, apart from the supply they get from other rice farmers:
“In Labana alone, we have 16 metric tonnes capacity per hour and by end of 2019, we are going to hit a 20 metric tonnes capacity, making it a total of 36 metric tonnes capacity per hour. You can imagine what we shall be producing annually including other 21 existed rice mills in Nigeria.
“What Nigeria presently requires per year is 6.9 billion metric tonnes of rice. We are already producing at 3.5 billion metric tones. If and when the additional 20 new rice mills that are about to be established comes on board, we would have the capacity to meet up with the remaining metric tonnes by the year 2020.”
A farmer at Fadama Rice Farm, Dikku, Birnin-Kebbi, Mallam Abubakar Magaji, attested to the success of rice farming. He added that they always take advantage of the dry season to recover whatever lost during the rainy season. He, however, admitted that they are constrained by the cost of fuel for their pumping machines and the presence of birds.
Bello Abubakar, a trader, charged the farmers and the millers to go a step further to bring down the price so that the common man would continue to pray for them.