By Nsan Ndoma-Neji, Calabar

The Ministry of Agriculture has promised Nigerians the availability of quality and affordable rice with the aim of ensuring food sufficiency/security for all, irrespective of where one resides.

Speaking at the forum of South South/South East Rice Value Chain stakeholders, which rounded off in Calabar at weekend, the Director, Federal Department of Agriculture, Mrs. Babangida Karima, stated this as part of the intervention by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to boost food and rice production, especially in the aftermath of thc effect of the COVID-19 pandemic; stressing that as a responsible government, food production must be encouraged.

She said, “As part of the interventions by thegovernment to boost rice production in the country post COVID-19 pandemic, and to enhance the availability of improved seeds to farmers as well as mitigate effects of floods on rice production.”

Maintaining that in the Federal Government’s effort to boost food sufficiency, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, through the Rice Value Chain Desk, distributed 36 metro tonnes of foundation seeds of the flood tolerant varieties, FARO 66 and 67, to rice farmers nationwide through the Rice Farmer Association of Nigeria, RIFAN, for the 2020 rainy season cropping cycle and 20 metric tonnes of breeder seed, the director stresed that same varieties were distributed to 14 selected seed companies with capacity to produce foundation seeds.

She enumerated other activities undertaken by the ministry to boost food production to include facilitation of establishment of 25 integrated rice mills by private investors nationwide to improve the quality of Nigeria milled rice to international standard.

She further stressed that the arrangement currently produces over a million metric tons of rice on annual basis.

Rice stakeholders at the forum in Calabar at weekend

Other efforts made by the ministry to boost food sufficiency include provision of farm inputs, like agrochemicals, organic fertilizers, knapsack sprayers, planting and harvesting equipment, such as reapers, mini combine harvesters, threshers at subsidized rate for increase productivity.

Provision of modern rice milling machines of various capacities per day, (10-tons, 20-tons and 50-tons), with their accessories like de-stoners, par-boilers, dryers, color sorters to small/medium scale processors, who produce the bulk of Nigeria rice to improve the quality of their output.

In a similar vein, the agriculture ministry further set up 23 Paddy Aggregation Centers, PACs, nationwide for aggregation of store paddy.

The director averred that the centers were given to members of the Paddy Dealers Association of Nigeria, PRIDAN, under the public private partnership arrangement.

She said, “We have also embarked on capacity building of farmers and processors on all aspects of rice production, processing, and marketing in conjunction with our international donor agencies.”

In his earlier remarks, an expert the food value chain, Dr. Chijioke Osuji, called for support from well meaning individuals to support stakeholders in the rice value chain, if the nation is to achieve its desire for food security.

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