By Azeez Kolawole Idris.
Rice is the seed of the grass species Oryza sativa (Asian rice) or Oryza glaberrima (African rice). As a cereal grain, it is a widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s human population.
Rice is composed of carbs, with small amounts of protein and virtually no fat. Brown rice contains a fair amount of fiber (1.8%), while white rice is very low in fiber (0.3%). One cup of boiled brown rice (195 grams) contains approximately 3.5 grams of fiber.
Varying amounts of resistant starch are also found in both white and brown rice. Resistant starch helps feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, stimulating their growth. In the colon, resistant starch leads to the formation of short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, which may improve colon health and cut the risk of colon cancer.
Aside from resistant starch, the fibre is concentrated in the bran, which has been stripped from white rice. The bran is mainly composed of insoluble fibers, such as hemicellulose, and contains virtually no soluble fiber. Many vitamins and minerals such as Manganese, Selenium, Thiamin, Niacin, Magnesium, and copper e.t.c. are concentrated in the bran and germ, which are components of brown rice but not white rice (medicalnewstoday).
According to the US Department of Agriculture, world markets and Trade, in 2012, Nigeria produced 3.7 million tonnes of rice annually which increased to 5.8 million tonnes in 2017. This is huge. Nigeria is the largest rice producer in Africa. Rice consumption rate in Nigeria stands at 7.9 million tonnes (Journal of plant science and crop protection).
However, with the enormous resources bestowed on this nation, we have capacity to do more and surpass our domestic needs and offer rice for exports. In 2012, major rice producing states in Nigeria were Ebonyi, Kaduna, Kano, Niger, Benue, Taraba and Borno. Other states were Enugu and Cross River.
However, there have been tremendous improvements in growing rice in Nigeria as a result of the Central bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrower’s Program, forthwith, excluding states like Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa , Katsina, and Zamfara e.t.c as major rice producers would be outright injustice. Moreover, at certain levels, states like Oyo, Ogun, Kwara and Kogi are also improving on their output in rice farming and rice production.
Far back as 1998, I visited rice farms along Iseyin-Oyo road and recently, several rice farms in Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa, Katsina, Zamfara states and Yewa, Ogun state. This suffices to say, we have potential to fulfil in rice production in Nigeria across many states of the federation.
Generally, milling of paddy (harvested rice) produces bye products that have economic values and especially the head rice, which is commonly called rice. Apparently, there is no any waste product across rice-value chain. Major stakeholders in this sector, have stated that the profit margin in parboiled rice milling is far above 50%.
Consequently, some informed oil magnates are beginning to invest heavily in this sector up North while the Southwest continues to wrestle for the final head rice supply chain following Nigerian border closure. This, we must thank the government for.
It must be stated here categorically, that this border closure is more of litmus paper to ascertain our level of preparedness as per food security for our dear nation and the teeming population and to determine the output of several government interventions in food production in Nigeria, especially rice production and others.
With reference to emerging issues across rice-value chain, it would be observed that there has been improvements and technological advancements in this sector. And yet, there are still a lot of rooms for developments and exploits.
However, as a matter of necessity, government at all levels, organized private sectors and individuals must be more than willing to contribute their quota towards Nigeria attaining self-sufficiency in rice production which will help to improve our economy, create direct and indirect jobs and possibly offer rice for exports.
In furtherance to the aforementioned, it is necessary to highlight some of the challenges in this sector so far and proffer feasible solutions that will drive desired changes and improvements.
In recent times, the industry is faced with unavailability of raw material (paddy). There has been a lot of interstate purchases of paddy while some companies were actually transferring the stock from their warehouses all over the country. This process lasted some weeks with huge costs but at the moment, there is simply no paddy to process anymore.
In this case, what is the way forward? We have to increase our rice cultivation volume. This could be done by offering incentives to farmers by way of encouraging them to do more. Unemployed graduates should also be introduced into rice cultivation as a way of improving our economy, creating jobs and assuring them of a means of livelihood by arranged stipends and profit during crop harvesting.
Importantly, as a palliative measure to border closure, big rice millers meeting certain quality regulatory requirements as stated by Nigerian Industrial Standards, NAFDAC e.t.c should be allowed to import large consignments of paddy, which can then be milled to meet our local demands till the newly cultivated paddy begins to yield again.
More so, high cost of paddy is also militating against this sector. Importantly, this has been associated to high cost of farm inputs, uneven distribution of rainfall, adoption of irrigation farming which is more expensive and the exploitation by middle-men across the rice-value chain.
Here, one of the best that could be done is to subsidize the costs of some farm inputs especially, fertilizer and improved rice seeds. And farm implements should be readily available at the 774 local government Areas of the Federation while totally abolishing the trend of “it’s not in working condition” which is a cankerworm to a serious government anywhere.
In addition, Low-yield grain varieties cultivated by many farmers also constitute a problem. Most small scale farmers do not have access to the long grain varieties of paddy commonly targeted by big rice millers as consumers’ requirements in the country.
The milling yield for the long grain variety is very encouraging, desired and marketable compared to the old, small and weak rice variety. Some of the small grain varieties are very difficult to mill and the output is not really encouraging or desired as per consumers requirements.
Farmers should be properly sensitized on seed selection before planting, and the improved grains varieties of rice should be readily available irrespective of the farm location.
Furthermore, poor disease and pest management is also a major challenge across rice value-chain. Farmers find it difficult to survive invasion of either diseases or pests on their farms which in turn affects the farm output, cause financial loss and outrightly discourage the farmer to proceed in this business.
And more importantly, most of this kinds of farm produce mount some quality control challenges which if not properly managed might induce or spur consumers’ complaints or litigations.
In order to surmount these challenges, a lot of support is required from Agricultural extension workers from government at all levels, Agricultural institutes, organized private sector on Agriculture and individuals who could help offer affordable services to farmers in this category.
As a matter of necessity, government Agricultural extension workers at all levels should be more functional and dedicated to their responsibilities because in most cases, it is either they are not available or not functional at all.
In addition, poor drying and storage for the harvested crops also poses a lot of challenges.
Most farm settlements that are actively involved in rice cultivation lack these facilities and this causes a lot of economic losses along the value-chain. In fact, in wrongly stored paddy with high moisture, I have seen several tonnes of paddy decayed because of this problem and if this type of paddy gets milled, it is a lot of quality control challenges. And in some cases, improperly stored paddy simply, sprouts.
Farmers should be sensitized against the consequences of improper drying and storage systems. Drying and storage facilities should be installed for organized farm settlements using a soft loan facility or private organizations may engage in this venture, making it affordable and efficient.
Furthermore, power instability and bad roads across the country is also militating against the success of this sector. Major millers in the sector have simply neglected the public electrical supply because it does not have any potential to facilitate their operation. They therefore resort to using some other forms of electrical generation and sometimes, running on generator sets which actually makes the production cost shoot up uncontrollably.
However, as regards roads, there is no escape route for anyone. The status of our (Nigerian) roads deserve serious government attention because without electricity and good roads, our economy may continue to be paralyzed and irrelevant globally.
Nigerian power sector must be completely overhauled to drive our economy towards prosperity for all. This will encourage a lot of investments in industries but industries depend on raw materials and most raw materials are gotten from the farm. So, availability of electricity and good road network will encourage most youths to consider farming. And this will help drive our economy for better.
In addendum, generally, for a nation like ours, agriculture remains a tool that could help us reshape our economic potential for prosperity and must be harnessed for betterment of all. The need for the North to engage in irrigation farming and high level of fertilizer usage is understandable. However, Southwest, Nigeria, especially, Oyo state must do all possible to harness its potential in the agricultural sector considering the human capacity and land space bestowed upon the state. ‘Aji se bi oyo laa ri’.
As a matter of fact, it is thought that Oyo state has the potential to feed the whole of the southwest region, year round. Although, this is a responsibility all states of the federation and individuals must be associated with.
It is hoped that if the aforementioned challenges and solutions could be considered and implemented, the rice crisis following border closure would be a thing of the past in short time and could also be sustainable.
May God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria, my fatherland.
Azeez Kolawole Idris, Argungu-based Rice Quality Personnel and Public Affairs Analyst from Iseyin quarters of Oyo state.
Mobile Phone: 08033839988