SABO NANONO, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Tuesday, in Abuja, said the country would begin exports of rice to other countries, two years from now. A statement by Theodore Ogaziechi, Director of Information, in the ministry, quoted Nanono, saying, that Nigeria’s border closure had resulted in increased production of local rice by farmers and millers across the country.
Nanono was on a working visit to Nestle Nigeria, Lagos, according to the statement, when he said: “Before the closure of our land borders, most of the rice milling plants were operating partially, but now they not only operate in full capacity but are also expanding. If we can maintain the momentum, in the next two years, we might commence export of rice to other countries.”
Most rice producers, the minister said, have stocked rice in various silos that might serve the country, the next six months. Such that before the stock is finished, dry season rice will be harvested. He did not give the quantity of “stocked rice” in the silos. But concluded that “all-year-round rice farming” has made Nigeria force to reckon with in rice production. By projection, Nanono ought to have stated what the “all-year-round rice farming” figures would amount to.
Nanono said: “We now cultivate rice in a nine-month cycle. As we move on the cycle will widen, so we do not have a problem with rice growing and processing. We now have 11 mega rice milling plants with the capacity to produce from 180 tonnes to 350 tonnes of rice per day. In a few months, another mill with a capacity to produce 400 tonnes of rice per day will be opened, with another upcoming 34 smaller mills. We will also have clusters in different areas”.
Accurate and consistent data is the soul of successful businesses. In overseeing the nation’s agriculture ministry, facts and figures of how the nation is fairing in food production, consumption and reserves; before exports is contemplated, should be in Nanono’s fingertips. Exporting Nigeria’s key staple foods – such as rice, yam, beans, processed cassava (garri), amongst others, that millions of Nigerians open their stomach to each day, should not be a matter of conjecture, but of facts.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy. Its desperate move for diversification from oil to other sectors of the economy needs to be properly articulated and conceptualized. Audu Ogbeh, President Buhari’s former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, for four years, stumbled along, in his quest to export yams abroad.
Ogbeh, believed yams production in Nigeria was thriving, while in office. UN food agency, reported that Nigeria produced more than 60 percent of the entire world’s yams. Ogbeh would have thought, despite this, why was Nigeria not one of the world’s leading exporters of yams. In share desperation, rather than been more constructive in planning, Ogbeh embarked on exporting Nigerian produced yams abroad.
June 29, 2017, Ogbeh, flagged off exportation of the first consignment of yams to Europe and United States from Apapa Port, Lagos, to drive Nigerian government diversification of the country’s economy. United States rejected the yams exported to the country, due to poor quality. Ogbeh, however, insisted that government will continue to export yams, despite US government rejecting the consignment.
Ogbeh’s further reaction to US government rejection of Nigerian yams exported to the country was that: “The ministry will investigate, because the ministry is not an exporter; exporters are private sector people. We will investigate both the company that exported it and asked our quarantine department to check and find out why such a consignment left here.”
He said yams export would contribute to the country’s economy. Nigeria would explore the food market in the United Kingdom worth £30 billion, which the country was only taking advantage of £15 million. “The federal government position is that we are exporting yams and we will continue to export yams because we are the biggest producers in the world and we should be the biggest exporter”, Ogbeh concluded.
Sabo Nanono, must have noted Ogbeh’s successes or flops in the ministry, been his successor. And lessons must be learnt. The global slump in oil, still hits Nigeria hard, been a country where oil export was responsible for over 70 percent government revenue. There is, more than ever, obvious need for the country’s constructive diversification from oil.
However, exporting Nigerian produced rice, being contemplated by Nanono, to take off in two years from now, should be undertaken with constructive ambition.