The Director-General, Africa Rice Center, Benin Republic, Dr. Harold Roy-Macauley has said Nigeria has overtaken Egypt as the largest rice producer in Africa.
The Nation reports the director-general said that Nigeria is now the largest rice producer at 4 million tonnes a year.
The latest development is testament to the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) efforts to vastly improve the production of rice in the country.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, a financing model for small-holder farmers, is part of the Federal government’s efforts to boost the nation’s rice production, supply, distribution and consumption value chain.
According to Roy-Macauley, Egypt was producing 4.3 tonnes annually but production has reduction by almost 40 percent this year, attributed to the Egyptian government decision to limit cultivated to preserve water resources.
Egypt rice cultivation requires about 1.8 billion metres of water in evaporation, transpiration and irrigation each year.
While Africa produces an average of 14.6 million tonnes of rough rice annually, Roy-Macauley said there were efforts to increase overall rice production in Africa but expressed doubts that it will curb rice importation as population has increased across the continent.
He said consumers are looking for rice that is safe and certified.
Roy-Macauley said, to meet expectations, his centre is ready to partner with Nigeria and other governments in Africa to train farmers, extension officers and exporters on best practice’s in cultivation and post- harvest care and to understand market requirements.
He stressed the African rice value chain needs to be better integrated and be capable of competing with imported rice in terms of quality.
The Director-General added that the goal to achieving rice self- sufficiency is not just about on farm assistance but also involves introducing rice varieties that fit the diverse African agro-ecologies, improve irrigation facilities and disseminate rice growing techniques to farmers.
Anchor Borrowers Program (APB); an initiative of the nation’s apex bank, has empowered thousands of rice farmers in the country, while working hand-in-hand with the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) to reach the farmers.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in January 2018 said it is determined to make Nigeria one of the largest rice producers and exporters in the world, making her less dependent on petroleum money.
Speaking with journalists in Abia state, the apex bank’s Acting Director, Corporate Communication, Issac Okoroafor, underlined the preparedness of the CBN to make the dream come true, saying the country’s apex bank is determined to make Nigeria join other countries in the production and exportation of rice, so that there will be food security and more jobs for the teeming youths.
He said, “This year, we are expecting that we will be self- sufficient in rice production, Nigeria will become a net exporter of rice because we have seen that most families now eat made-in-Nigeria rice.
“We now eat rice grown fresh in Nigeria, not the rice we used to import from India, Vietnam, and Thailand, rice that was between seven to nine years old. Now we are eating farm fresh rice, grown, milled and packaged in Nigeria. You see, we are very proud of Nigerians because they responded to this.”
Okoroafor said the Anchor Borrowers programme has been one of the most successful programs in this country, adding that it goes to show that, “when our people think well and we invest well, we can achieve a revolution, which is what Anchor Borrowers programme has achieved. We are continuing with it, we are expanding it.”