Rice is a staple cuisine in all of Nigeria’s states. It is served to commemorate major occasions, and kids look forward to eating it every Sunday. Rice production and consumption in Nigeria have been steadily increasing. However, the increased production is insufficient to meet the demand of the fast-rising urban population, which has a strong predilection for parboiled rice.
Nigeria relied heavily on rice imports in the 1970s, especially during the “Oil Boom,” to meet the population’s demand. “Uncle Bens” rice and “Thailand Parboiled rice” were popular brands, but only the wealthy could buy them. Furthermore, these crops were grown by foreigners, and they were unable to meet the demands of the world’s population of over 50 million people. Thanks to other local brand taking the Nigerian Market like SeedFirst parboiled rice, Big bull, among others.
In the twenty-first century, with a population of over 200 million people and growing challenges like climate change and insecurity, the necessity of developing a plan for rice self-sufficiency cannot be overstated. In the last 10 years, Nigeria has overtaken Indonesia as the world’s second-largest rice importer. Nigeria’s domestic rice production was 5.6 million metric tonnes in 2018, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), while consumption was 6.7 million metric tonnes. This means that consumption has outpaced production. Furthermore, only about 57 percent of the 6.7 million metric tonnes of rice consumed in Nigeria each year is produced locally, leaving a supply gap of approximately 3 million metric tonnes that is either imported or illegally smuggled into the country.
Because of the high cost of production, they must face in comparison to their overseas counterparts, continued rice importation would aggravate the poor situation of small-scale rice farmers. Because of the higher cost of production, local rice farmers will make little or no profit from their investment in rice growing, worsening their poverty. As a result, while rice producers in other countries prosper, those in Nigeria suffer.
Though poor processing of locally produced rice contributed to Nigerians’ preference for imported rice, increased imports of milled rice mean more jobs will be created in the countries from which rice is imported, while local rice producers who cannot cope with the high cost of production will undoubtedly lose their jobs.
Meanwhile, rice importation prohibitions have been imposed at various times over the years, but Nigeria’s rice importation policy has been inconsistent owing to government changes. Variable government regimes have different policies, and these frequent policy changes have increased the risk and uncertainty faced by investors in the sector, making long-term investment in the sector challenging. For instance, the Nigerian government authorized rice importation over land borders once proper taxes and duties were paid in October 2015; but, in March 2016, this policy was reversed, and a zero-tolerance policy for rice importation through these same channels was implemented. In recent years, these policy changes have had a toll on domestic production.
Given the importance of rice as a staple meal in Nigeria, the government has made increasing its production a top priority during the last seven years. Rice production has increased significantly, reaching a peak of 9 million metric tonnes in 2021, up from around 5.4 million metric tonnes in 2015. Nigeria produces the most rice paddy in Africa, with an average annual production of 8 million metric tonnes. As of 2019, the country was the world’s 14th largest producer of rice.
Without a doubt, there are several prospects in the rice sector that will enable the country to achieve self-sufficiency while also transforming the country from a net importer to a net exporter of rice. Certain actions must be taken to close the gap between rice production and consumption in the country.
- The first point of call is to grow rice during both the rainy and dry seasons. Fortunately, Nigeria is endowed with ideal soil and meteorological conditions for rice cultivation. This is in addition to dedicating more areas for rice production; data shows that rice can be grown in almost every state in Nigeria.
- Subsidized farm inputs such as fertilizers, higher quality seeds, herbicides, and other agricultural inputs are one strategy to support rice growing. Access to inputs on a timely basis may considerably enhance production, as well as the quality and amount of the yield.
- Furthermore, in order to meet local demand, appropriate investments in production, milling, and grading must be made (particularly in the production of superior-grade rice that may be used to replace imported rice).
- If Nigeria wants to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production, the government’s intervention and policies must be comprehensive. For example, there should be a long-term policy that prevents rice from being imported into the country, which will enhance native production. Smuggling of foreign rice into Nigeria must also be addressed since sources indicate that millions of tonnes of smuggled rice continue to enter the Nigerian market.
- Insecurity is another threat to rice production that must be addressed since most farmers in states where security is a problem are fleeing their interior farms for fear of being abducted or killed. As a consequence, removing this threat will allow farmers access to their crops, resulting in increased production.
Finally, when the gap between rice production and consumption is filled, self-sufficiency in rice production is both reachable and possible in Nigeria. This may be accomplished by increasing the capacity of rice growers and producers; according to recent statistics, the country has 50 large integrated milling plants, over 1,000 medium-integrated milling plants, and over 3,000 smaller modular milling machines. To increase rice production, the capacity of these machines may be increased. Any other non-rice producing states should be encouraged to take advantage of the economic opportunities offered by the rice production sector, keeping in mind that all security threats must be addressed. In order to promote investment, the rice sub-sector must also have a consistent and business-friendly government policy.
Corresponding Author: Veronica Idwimoh
Co- Author: Peter Daniel (PhD)