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Wednesday, 24 April 2013 00:00
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Kogi begins harvest of rice in commercial quantity

Rice ProductionKogi State government has disclosed that it has begun the harvest of rice in commercial quantity at its Ukomi Rice plantation site in Lokoja.

According to the government in a statement it said in view of the harvest at the 1,500 hectare farm, all flood plains would soon be converted to a rice farm.

It quoted Governor Wada as saying that the harvest had marked the beginning of the end of Nigeria’s dependence on imported rice. “Government would take advantage of the vast land along the rivers Niger and Benue to engage unemployed youths in rice farming.

``The government will soon purchase farming equipment and address issues of land ownership and other challenges facing the project,'' Wada was quoted as saying.

According to the governor, the state government, in partnership with some investors, will soon establish rice mills in the state, while branded rice from the farm will in no time flood markets in the country.

Recent statistics revealed that the country is spending about N365bn annually on the importation of 2.1 million metric tonnes of milled rice, the Federal Government has said.
According to the government, the country is currently the largest importer of rice in the world, a development it notes as adversely affecting its agricultural sector.

A document obtained by our correspondent from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture on Friday stated, “Nigeria is the largest importer of rice in the world, spending N365bn per year importing 2.1 million MT of milled rice.”

The government, in a bid to reduce the nation’s import dependence, had to raise tariff on imported brown rice and finished rice, it was learnt.

It was  also gathered from the ministry that private investors had set up 13 new rice mills with a total capacity of 240,000MT.

This, the ministry officials said, was part of measures aimed at reducing the huge capital outflows from the nation’s economy through the importation of rice.

The Director, Policy Research and Statistics in the ministry, Dr. Umar Hussaini, stated that in the last one year, the Federal Government had produced 690,000MT in the main season, and would have done 1.2 million MT by the end of the dry season.

He said the government was “currently securing financing of over $1.2bn from the China Exim Bank for 100 large-scale rice processing plants with a total capacity of 2.1 million MT, which is enough to substitute imports.”

“For the first time in our history as a nation, Nigeria will have the full industrial capacity to mill internationally competitive quality rice,” Hussaini said.

The document stated that agriculture import dependency was hurting the economy, stressing that yearly, Nigeria was importing over $11bn worth of wheat, rice, sugar and fish.

“Nigeria’s food imports are growing at an unsustainable rate of 11 per cent per annum. Relying on the import of expensive food on global markets fuels domestic inflation,” it stated.

It added that excessive imports were putting pressure on the naira, adding that Nigeria was importing what it could produce in abundance.

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