Abundance of Rice Grains for Christmas Celebration

…Rice Farmers, Processors Give Reasons

Rice, a commodity commonly used in all the households, especially in Nigeria, became extremely expensive and was seen as an exclusive reserve of the rich people during the Christmas celebration of 2019. Aside the cost, the product was also not readily available for those who had the money for its purchase.

The scarcity which came on the heels of the ban placed on rice importation by the Federal Government of Nigeria, brought about smuggling of the product into Nigeria from different foreign countries, as the local production was greatly insufficient to carry the demand of Nigerians.

However, the trend changed during the Christmas celebration of 2020 as Fides, after a tour of some rice producing communities and rice mills, observed a remarkable improvement on the availability and abundance of the commodity, Reports Chioma Ndife.

Speaking on the availability and affordability of the commodity, the Commissioner for Agriculture in Anambra State, Hon. Nnamdi Onukwuba, said the proactive nature of the state government necessitated the availability of rice through the launch of the wet season farming and subsequent distribution of inputs. He said the distribution of the inputs assisted most farmers to commence early planting and explained that such limited the effect which the floods could have had on farmers as most people were able to harvest.

He disclosed that the State Government had stationed tractor hiring services in all the rice producing areas of the state through the various partnership it entered with some organizations in order to encourage mechanized farming. He said that the government recently introduced 7 new tractors and would revamp another 20 through an agreement with the private sector.

He noted that Anambra at the moment produced 440,000 metric tons of rice yearly, saying that Anambra had enough rice to sustain its populace.

For her part, a rice framer at Umumbo, in Ayamelum LGA, Anambra State, Mrs. Chidiebere Anike, disclosed that the change in weather was a great booster to rice production, noting that flood which mostly affected rice production, came at a time when most people had planted and harvested rice twice. She said that having rice produced twice in a year on the same plot of land made rice greatly available and forced most processors to reduce their prices.

Anike revealed that the corona pandemic and its subsequent lockdown created an avenue for more people to venture into farming, especially rice production, saying that some land portions that were formerly unused were all cleared and used for agricultural purposes.

She commiserated with those that lost their rice farm to flood, saying that it brought a huge loss to them as they either sold out the rice which became brownish after the flood subsided at a giveaway price or had to feed their families with it.

‘Rice farming this year got a bumper harvest and this made rice to be available and also affordable. The weather made this plentiful harvest to be possible. People here in Ayamelum, especially those farmers at Anaku, most often lose their rice farms to flood but this year’s flooding came quite late unlike in the past years and this helped some farmers to cultivate their farms twice.

‘Apart from that, the coronavirus pandemic with its attendant lockdown created an avenue for most people, especially civil servants, to go into farming. Most of the lands which had been unused for a longtime were all cleared up and used for farming.

‘There are still those who lost their rice farms to flooding and there is need for the government to reach out this people as this will necessitate going into farming the next season, she explained.

Contributing, Joseph Onuorah, an indigene of Anaku, who had practiced rice farming for the past 20 years, linked the abundance of rice to the support which farmers received through various government policies geared at improving agriculture, noting that farmers at the moment had embraced mechanized farming.

‘I have been into rice farming for the 20 years, the abundance of rice came as a result much improvement in seedlings and developments witnessed in the field of agriculture. Currently, most farmers have embraced mechanized farming and government is throwing in much support for better practices.

Onuorah maintained that flood disasters and shortage of rainfall at the beginning of the 2020 farming affected some farmers’ production yield. He however said the two factors had no visible effect on the availability and affordability of rice. He upheld that the price of rice during the yuletide had been stable due to rice availability as most people ventured into farming.

‘The shortage of rainfall witnessed at the beginning of the farming season affected some farmers but that was not the major problem. The main issue was flood disaster that wasted away people’s investment in agriculture. The flood disaster didn’t cut across all farmers and at such, rice price at the moment is relatively stable,’ he stated.

For her part, Mrs. Ngozi Ndife, a rice farmer in Anaku, regretted that shortage of rainfall and intense sun affected rice yield, noting that such caused a hike in the price of rice, especially the unprocessed ones needed for next year’s farming season.

She stated that the abundance of rice as seen in most places was due to lack of money, noting that most people who stored up their unprocessed rice all brought it out to be milled as the fund to be realized from it would help them to attend to their other needs.

‘The high intensity of the sun had negative effect on rice yield this year. The abundance of rice grains in most mills across the state was due to the scarcity of money, most people who had stored up their rice took it to the mills, perhaps to sell and attend to other needs,’ she explained.

In Ogboji, Orumba North, Mrs. Nkechi Chukwuma who held a contradictory opinion, opined that local production of rice was greatly insufficient and blamed the Buhari led administration for creating artificial rice through the ban placed on rice importation. She explained that foreign rice during the period it was in circulation was more affordable than local rice and beckoned on the government to come up with policies that would balance the seeming artificial scarcity.

Adding his voice, the CEO of ANESTAN Farm, Hon. Stanislaus Nnaka, said there existed a great margin in the price of rice between 2019 and 2020. He observed that the support which government throw behind agriculture motivated lots people to venture into farming and production. He however regretted that the available raw material was greatly limited for more people to venture into large scale commercial farming.

He revealed that there was need for more people to venture into rice farming, noting that during the festive season when demands were high, locally produced rice tended to be insufficient.

Fides tour of some selected rice mills showed that the ban placed on rice importation had increased local production as most people no longer consume imported rice but now depend on local rice.