Journalist: Long before now, farming has always been a vocation of … that attracted little attention or no interest at all especially among city dwellers and core investors, all of that seem to be changing and increasingly so considering Nigeria’s economic reality when every government and group are approaching diversification. Perhaps some years before now the Anambra State government peeped into today and decided to make agriculture the fulcrum for economic development in the state. The outcome has seen several communities become a hub for rice farming. It has blossomed to a point where the state is now self-sufficient in local rice availability with plans to increase capacity for export.
Nigeria is said to consume an average of 6 million metric tons of imported par boiled rice annually. At the current retail price averaging 17,000 Naira per 50kg bag that clearly puts so much strain on foreign exchange when you multiply that by millions of tons consumed annually in the country. The implications are becoming more visible than can be accommodated within reasonable trade exchange between countries. Jobs are created in those countries, production 1:47.., locals are empowered financially and the list goes on. What impact that brings to the local economy are all the opportunities being exported abroad. Enough of that imbalance already, some states in Nigeria are thinking inward, many of them have launched both openly and silently some agricultural scheme aimed at either food sustainability or as investment of some sort. Anambra state has come under the radar and of particular interest is its rice production and revolution.
Afam Mbanefo (comm. for Agriculture Anambra state.): When my Governor assumed office, we were realizing that the rice production was under 100, 000 metric tons, so within one year of my assuming office till date we are now able to do about 190,000 and our target for this farming season is to get up to 210,000 metric tons. We looked at the figures and we know clearly what the state or the federal government is strategically planning to do for the country and we knew the economic situation of the environment and that rice being one of the staple crops that Nigeria and Anambra state obviously with 3:37… advantage that we have based on the analysis and the …. of our land within the 21 L.G.A in about 9 L.G.A we do rice and do it very well, coupled with the … of our soil to produce rice and we zoomed in on that and began to work with our farmers in tandem with programs that we have in the ministry, we have ….. we have value chain and the new one…. just started up. And because we also have extension work, our ADP extension services are quite very robust and strong in the state as a matter of fact I think Anambra state is one of the state that still has a very strong ADP extension activities in the country so we… on this and made sure that we had a strong focus.
Journalist: In 2014, the state governor was very clear on what he wanted to achieve using rice production. In his exact words “this administration will boost rice production in the state from the present 80,000 metric tons to 400,000 metric tons.” Not very many are aware that communities in Anambra state are involved in an age long tradition of cultivating rice. These local farmers scattered across the state cultivated rice, harvested and packaged it but it never made it big at the markets which led to a…5:35 price. There are seven L.G.A in the state that are involved in rice production, these local governments are Anambra East, Anambra West, Akwa North, Orumba North, Orumba South, Ogbaru and Ayamelum local goverment. In Ayamelum alone there are 8 communities that do this for a living and has become a part of their ancient history. However, it has remained at the realms of subsistence farming.
Afam Mbanefo (comm. for Agriculture Anambra state.): We do rice in 9 local governments out of the 21 local governments and from our analysis we have over 12 to 13,000 cooperatives, validated cooperatives, a lot more are coming on board and these 9 local governments are doing rice in right size quantities. Some of them do two cycles, some of them are irrigated, some of them are still running both wet and dry season as they should, and the programs has also helped them to .6:45.. some of these environment and so yes the rice that we have planted in Anambra state are quite enormous to give us the expected yield that we want. As a matter of fact as at earlier in the year 2014 before my governor took over, we were doing yield of between 2.5 to 3. something metric tons per hectare, but right now we have graduated from that to about 4-5 metric tons. As a matter of fact, this season we’ve got somewhere and some place…7:30 where we are now doing about 6-7 metric tons per hectare, fantastic report there and we anticipate that once we regain the lower river basin properly as we would want and that is what is happening with the…program that is coming onboard now, that we would have an effective and steady experience of our yield which we are targeting between 6-7 for a good start and I’m sure that would move up.
Journalist: So having identified this challenge from inception, the state government decided that it was time to add value to local rice production. The outcome is the stimulus that brought about multi billion naira investments from private investors who went into de-stoning of the rice which was a major challenge with locally produced rice. The production may be local and indigenous to these communities but the ambition is to make it competitive with the species that are imported if it must stand any chance of becoming the family choice. Once again these communities got some state support with long grain species called….9:10
Afam Mbanefo (comm. for Agriculture Anambra state.): We knew that we needed to do a lot more in terms of sensitizing our farmers with input provision and extension work so his Excellency funded distribution of certified rice seeds. And how we did that is we were looking at how best we could sustainably run this program so we developed a sustainable model that would work such that we won’t have to go back to the government or to his Excellency to ask for more money. Two ways we followed that up was one we developed a scheme where we will be doing multiplication of the seeds and also we started by providing the certified seeds to our farmers. We did that in such a way that we brokered a tripartite sort of relationship more like the way the anchor program worked so we provide the seeds and we provide the off takers and the farmers are there to utilize the seeds. What we had done is tying up with the off takers who will now buy up the harvested rice from the farmers. These off takers are processors and so we are pretty sure that these rice are off taken we know that is going to be processed properly so tying that up has now encouraged our farmers to know that as they are planting and harvesting, a buyer is there for them. To sensitize this, last year 2015 December, the excellency provided rice free of charge to public civil servants including the retired servants what that did for us is that it provided rice sensitization to our farmers who hasn’t had that sort of experience before when we started they didn’t realize that it was real and when they started realizing that it was real, they all came out in full so we now sensitized the farmers, we put money into the hands of the farmers, we introduced more farmers to the scheme. So a lot of farmers were now able to go in after that very huge sales and distribution that we did. They were now able to go back into the farms again and were able to re-engage and see that this is a well driven business because they made some money and they want to go back to farming again.
Journalist: Today the once local farm cultivated by local farmers for local rice production has become a huge industrial hub because it has attracted huge industrialists who helped mechanize the entire process.
Godwin Umeaka (MD, COSCHARIS FARMS ANAMBRA STATE): Before the oil was discovered, agriculture was our major revenue earning commodity but when oil was discovered all our attention was shifted to oil and we abandoned farming. We got it wrong because we shifted to oil which people felt was an easier way to make money but agriculture is supposed to be the main stay of African countries and Nigeria in particular. The government apart from shifting to oil did not support even those who are still in the agric business, all the financial support was not given, the infrastructure was not available, the roads to the farmlands were not available and all the incentive required for example bringing equipment like the kind of mechanized farming that we are doing now, we need a lot of equipment, tractors, bulldozers and so on and these things cost a lot of money and we need incentive to bring them, you can’t impose duty on such equipment like every other equipment so you need incentive. All those things were not given to the farmers those days but now government is doing something about it trying to give all the incentive and then give the financial support through the CBN and other sources of help.