In recent times, the Federal Government has been making moves in the agricultural sector to attain self-sufficiency in rice production; thereby reducing the billions of dollars spent annually importing rice.
This move by the government led to the initiation of many intervention schemes such as the Anchor Borrowers Programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria, which has helped in increasing the yield of rice and wheat production in Nigeria.
States like Kebbi and Kano have been in the forefront in rice production with each of the states accounting for over two million tons of rice.
Jigawa is another state that its government has taken rice production to another level. The state government said it is not competing with any state in Nigeria in rice production; instead it is targeting to dislodge Thailand, Brazil, America and China from the world ranking on rice production.
During a trip to Jigawa State to ascertain rice production in the state, Nigerian Tribune gathered that the state has been revamping the rice value chain in the state silently.
It was also gathered that some farms across the state currently have the potential to harvest 2.1 million tons of rice soon.
Currently in the state, there are about 100 hectares of rice for the dry season farming which will yield an average of five tons per hectare, also there is another 210 hectares in cultivation with an average yield of seven tons per hectare.
The Federal Government and the Jigawa State government have collaboration on 35 km rice farm at Hadeja Local Government which covers 6000 hectares. The Federal Government planted the crops while the Jigawa State provided inputs for the farmers.
According to the Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Badaru Abubakar, “We have between 70 to 100 hectares under cultivation for rice for this dry season, during the rainy season, we are expecting to have 400,011 hectares under cultivation, so we expect the yield of minimum of five tons per hectare from the dry season, and the rainy season the minimum of four tons per hectare because during the rainy season, you have no control over the water that flows into the farms.
“We have up to nine tons per hectare in specific fields, in most of our clusters that we do we get up to seven tons per hectare, but when you take general farmers average it will be 5 tons per hectare in the dry season and average four in the rainy season.
“When we came in two years back, it was average 2.5 tons per hectare, but because of the cluster and a lot of enlightenment, the production of fertilizer, they are moving to about four tons per hectare, some farmers are doing six to eight tons per hectare while some are doing 2.5 tons per hectare.
“So, when you do the calculations, 100,000 hectares multiplied by five tons, it gives you 500,000 tons, then 400,011 hectares multiplied by four tons, it gives you 1.6 million tons, so if you add all of these, it is about 2.1 million tons, so that is what we expect”.
Governor Badaru said the major target of rice is to make it competitive which will go a long way to increase local production, reduce the cost of production and discourage smuggling of rice into the country.
“The major target is for rice production to be competitive, if we are not competitive, no matter what mechanism we put around our borders smuggling will continue, so we have to be able to produce rice competitively so that the consumer will have good rice, and that will completely discourage smuggling.
“Of course we know that there is substandard rice coming in because, they have been in the store for a very long time, and we also know that some of the countries subsidise agriculture, and then that subsidised rice will always be a problem, so I believe the state is willing and able to support the Federal Government in combating smuggling because all across the borderlands we have communities, and those communities will be able to feed us with information and we feed the Federal Government on what is happening around the border towns and then discourage smuggling.
“The other way the government is working to make rice competitive is to reduce the cost of production, fertilizer price is already reduced, we are working with the Federal Government on the best way to create companies that will produce insecticides so that it will also be controlled, produced locally and the price will reduce, the same thing with equipment mechanization to see how best we can partner the producers of machines for agriculture use, to see how best we can produce the machines locally, if we do this, the cost of production will reduce drastically,” he noted.
He, however said that serious measures need to be taken by both state and federal government to ensure that smuggling of rice is stopped, adding that if it (smuggling) continues, it will discourage farmers from going to the farm.
“If smuggling is allowed to continue, it will discourage our farmers and miller and the whole rice revolution will not happen, but I believe in the next two to three years, we will be forced to be more competitive, and if we become more competitive in rice production, then smuggling will reduce, then we have to control is substandard rice being imported,” Governor Badaru said.
Speaking further on rice production, the governor said, “In Jigawa where we have the cluster, we support the farmers with inputs, we buy in bulk, then the farmers get the inputs at a very affordable price, so when we do that with the input, we try to also systematically improve our production, so that farmers will spend less on inputs but still produce much more.”
He said necessary farm inputs have been provided to the farmers on loan basis, he also said the farmers were provided with modern farm mechanisation to ease the stress of farming and harvesting rice.
On loan, the Governor said about N3.5 billion had been spent on rice and wheat in the state, majority of the fund was given out as loans to the farmers, also about N5 billion had been spent in the state on other agricultural value chains.
“We give loans to farmers for the cluster approach that we do, close to N3.5 billion had been invested on this programme, but if we look at the whole agriculture value chains, we spent close to N5 billion, but most of it, we are recovering and investing back.
“Before, the farmers used sickle to harvest rice, but now we bought multi rice harvester and distribute to youths as empowerment tool, so now they act as service providers to farmers, this reduces the cost of production because using the manual sickle, you pay more but with the new harvester you pay but not as much as you pay before for the manual operation, it is faster and it helps the youth to be empowered.
“We also bring in threshers, before the farmers beat drums to threshold the rice, now we supplied the youth with threshers so that they act as service providers for the farmers,” the governor said.
Furthermore, Jigawa state government trained youths pest control, the farmers notify the pest control agents through mobile phone whenever they find pest in their farms, also there are state trained extension workers who visit farmers in their clusters to assist them with advice on how to improve productivity.
“We also introduced pest control agents, we train youths in pest control, so they are everywhere in the state, they are trained in crop protection, so that when are farmers finds out that there are problem, he will notify them and they will act as service providers to spray the farm or provide whatever technical information they want before they meet without extension farmers.
“We have our state trained extension workers, one extension worker per ward and 250 of them moving around clusters to check what is happening in the farms.
“We also provided small scale rice processing mills, just small scale for women groups that they act as service providers for small scale farmers.
“We also train some mechanics on the repairs of harvesters, threshers and tractors, we give them motorcycles and working tools, they move around to give service to the farmers in the field, so if you are in the village, you don’t have to tow your tractor to the city where it will be worked, we have a mobile line that you can call and the mechanic will come and fix it in your farm, it makes the cost cheaper.
The major challenge of rice production in Jigawa state is the attack on the farm by Queala birds, destroying crops and reducing yield. But the farmers engaged children on the farm to make noise at interval, which scares away the birds from destroying the farm.
The Jigawa government also said it has purchased chemicals and will soon engage aircraft to spray chemicals across the farm lands which will kill the Queala birds before they attack the farms.
In Ringim Local Government, there is a special programme 210 hectares rice production initiated by the Jigawa state government, the main aim of this programme is to empower farmers to encourage food security, and increase income generation for farmers, youths will also benefit from it.
The government provided all the inputs including the seeds, fertilizers and water pumps were given as loans to farmers, at the end of the production cycle, the farmers will pay the cost of the inputs and the programme continues.
According to the Special Programme Coordinator, Auwalu Isakila, “we just started the programme, but we are planning to make it a multi cycle programme, after this dry season rice, then wet season will come in, already we have seeds for wet season programme.
“We have a total of 190 farmers working on this farm. we expect at least 6 tons per hectare from this 210 hectares, in some cases we get seven tons per hectare.”
Dahiru Island, a farmer in Jigawa while speaking with Nigerian Tribune said “I cultivate rice, maize, wheat and other crops, the state government supported us with some farms inputs like fertilizer, seeds, herbicides, insecticide and they also send extension workers to advice us in the farm.
“Today in Jigawa we are not looking at rice production comparing ourselves with Kano or Kebbi, we are looking at Thailand, America, China and Brazil.
We have varieties from China and Brazil on trial in the state, to see how we can improve our competitiveness.
We are not looking at rice in Jigawa state as an import substitution alone, but we are looking at it in future to come as an export crop for the rest of Africa, that is our drive”, Governor Badaru added.
BY Collins Nnabuife
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