With the ongoing Federal Government Rice Support Programme, National Daily’s Agribusiness Editor, Frank Oyakhilome speaks with the Managing Director of Igbemo Rice Processing Company Ltd and President, Ekitit State Association of Rice Processors, Millers & Traders, Mr. Dare Adekolu on the accessibility of the fund and other issue affecting rice production in Nigeria. Excerpt
SINCE July last year the Federal Government via the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had agreed to guarantee a N1.8 billion loan from commercial banks for farmers under the Federal Government Rice Support Programme. Both Kebbi and Kano were said to have accessed this fund. What about your association and igbemo rice, have you benefitted?
Here in Ekiti State we only hear of this on the pages of newspaper and at the same time it may interest you to know that most of these policies of funding, how laudable they might be, always come with very hard to meet criteria. So only the rich could access them. They don’t get to the common masses that have vision for the industry. Our rice brand-Igbemo Rice despite its prominence in the southwest has not benefitted. Even in November last year we wrote a letter to the Office of the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Abuja and a follow-up with the Ekiti State office of that ministry has yielded no result. In 2014 Processors, farmers, traders of rice in Ekiti State came under Ekiti State Association of Rice Processors, Millers & Traders for a common front yet all entreaties for support from government have not been responded to.
Just Last week, Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Federal Minister of Agricultures emphatically revealed that by April rice will be affordable by all do you think this is realistic giving the present situation?
To achieve good result that can stand the test of time I trust in the ability of the Honorable Minister of Agriculture and I want to believe the Honorable Minister rather than coercing is coming up with palliative measures that can make the rice industry productive. The processors need adequate fund (accessible fund anyway) for up-to-date equipment and as working capital. The farmers need high yield quality seeds, money for pre-harvesting and post harvesting activities and in all training and retraining programmes should be encouraged for producers, producer and traders in the industry. It is when these variables are meant that you can encourage the industry to do well and get a lasting solution against saboteur.
Some time ago the Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu called for the certainty of the sufficiency in rice production by Nigerian farmers if the ban on rice importation is to make any meaning, as the current level of rice production was not commensurate with its teeming population What is your take on rice importation and ban on importation of rice?
Yes, ban on importation is good but it should be done with caution. Like I have said earlier providing necessary support for the home industry of rice will sustain the courage of the current actors in the industry and further encourage new entrants. The cost of production will be low and bearable and locally competition for sales will set in with attractive affordable prices and of high quality. So when this is done we will have enough to meet our population demand and even export to other countries. But if you don’t encourage and support the local industry the intention of import ban may be dented with deprivation.
How long has Igbemo Rice Mill be in existence?
Well let me start by telling you the history of the brand (Igbemo Rice) – Farmers and traders living in a suburb of Igbemo-Ekiti in Ekiti state are well known for this enterprise so the rice was named after that community. It is unpolished or you call it brown rice, it has been well accepted as far back as in the 1950s in Ekiti state but became prominent in the 1980s across the entire southwest with the “oh God” slogan because of stones content.
Regrettably, people were not quick at promoting that brand in terms of adding value to processing and marketing so the Ofada brand from Ogun State was fast taking over.In 2011 bothered with the fact that this rice brand if given good value could improve the economy of Ekiti State, provide lucrative employment for our people and also make food available and affordable we decided to register Igbemo Rice Processing Company Limited with the Corporate Affairs Commission to commence operation. If there could be adequate support for the operators of the industry in Ekiti State people are ready for the business and enough will be produced to feed the entire southwest and even for export.
Is the Ekiti State government assisting the rice farmers in any way, if no, or not as much will this be as a result of comparative advantage between Cocoa and Rice?
To be frank with you the Ekiti State government is not doing much in this area and I wouldn’t know if is because of the comparative advantage as you have rightly mentioned but even at that could that be right? We have done the analysis once and announced to the government that Ekiti can make over N6 billion annually from rice, a national newspaper even reported it sometime in 2014.So what are we saying; something that can alleviate poverty and quick to harvest and process within one year, create employment and feeding the people as no house in Ekiti that will not take rice each day. When the government came up with the Stomach Infrastructure Programme we applauded that initiative and we made some representations to them and follow-up letters but up till now we have not gotten any response.
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Sincerely speaking, will you say the Southern belt of the Nation, Nigeria has all the factors to make rice production a top, on the list of crop production? If yes what is the problem why is that rice farming seems to be dominant in the North?
Thank you for this question, my answer is capital YES, but the north is doing better because they have adequacy of most of these support we are clamoring for. I will not want to mention names in the north of people who have been supported with Hundreds of millions and billions funding. It is quite true the cost of getting modern facilities for processing is quite expensive but right here in the south you can hardly get even a single digit million while in the north you hear of hundreds of millions and billions funding support. So we have the land and there are people of vision and strong will but where is the financial ability as it replicates in the north?
Do the South have special hybrid rice that can thrive and compete with the northern counterparts?
Yes, there are special hybrids that are been newly introduced into the system such as the NERICA varieties, FARO varieties etc but what is important here is managing the upland and lowland seasons because it is the type of season that determines what variety of crops for it to do well. So the association is engaging in more of sensitization programmes for this purpose
What policies would you want to see in the upcoming agricultural road map of the country been drawn by the FMARD.
Policies that will bring down the cost of borrowing for farming (single digit to be precise), policies that will make borrowing easily accessible and timely, policies that will encourage training and retraining on agricultural matters
Looking at agricultural policies of the past would you say the FG does adhere to such enacted policies?
Yes, we use to have wonderful policies in this country but what about implementation? Most of these prayers are not new but how well have they been implemented? Some bureaucratic impediments are not making some of these to work desirably. The government has given assurances in terms of diversifying the economy and they have said agriculture will regain its lost glory in this country I want to believe the government will be sincere about these by promoting those policies that will not kill the system but rather that will encourage productivity by feeling the pains and aspirations of the operators.