President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday announced that his administration has ensured the construction of four rice mills annually as against the two per year done by the government he succeeded.
He spoke at the Aso Rock Villa when he hosted key stakeholders in the rice production value chain, whom he commended for investing over N300 billion in rice mills located even in remote parts of the country.
The stakeholders presented to him an outlay of their investments and challenges they encounter. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was also signed among the farmers, millers and dealers.
Buhari said that a significant percentage of the investment was done under the cloud of recession, explaining that eight rice mills were built between 2015 and 2018 as against the 13 built between 2009 and 2015. Goodluck Jonathan was president from 2010 to 2015.
His words: “When we came in 2015, there were thirteen rice mills in Nigeria. Twelve of these were built between 2009 and 2015. This was an average of two mills per annum.
“But my team and I felt more could be done. And we put in place measures and policies to unlock the potential of this sector and thus, increase the rate of investments.
“You will all recall that in November 2015, I was in Birnin Kebbi to launch the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers program and also kick off the dry season rice farming. Since then, the Vice President and I have commissioned a record number of agricultural projects and programs. From rice, to wheat, to cashew, to animal feed, to fertiliser, to drinks processing and many more.
“And very soon, I will also be commissioning a sugar estate. These projects are all over the country and worth billions of Naira. Clearly, our policies are working.
“From your presentation today, you have shown that between 2016 and 2018, eight new rice mills have come on stream. This is equivalent to four new mills per annum. Our paddy production and productivity has also doubled compared to 2014 levels.
“This achievement just confirms what we all know. That when Nigerians are committed to execute a task, it gets done.”
The president said the commitment of the stakeholders has guaranteed that the 11 million Nigerian farmers will remain employed; and assured them that “we will also do our bit to ensure you are able to sell quality Nigerian rice at an affordable price”.
He equally commended the Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, for his unwavering commitment to the rice value chain and indeed agriculturists, declaring him a true ambassador for rural economic development.
In a chat with State House correspondents afterwards, Bagudu said menace of rice smuggling was being taken seriously by the government, as Buhari has been angry over the development; with other countries virtually waging an economic war in Nigeria.
“But it is a collective responsibility and so we want all Nigerians to participate the menace in importing the commodities especially in rice.
“The narrative out there is wrong. Other countries are undertaking economic warfare on us. There is no nation in the world that can produce and sell to Nigeria freshly grown rice equivalent to what is produced in Nigeria at the prices that Nigeria farmers are selling.
“So, most of the prices of smuggled rice are discounted prices that reflect the age of that rice and in some cases, as identified by NAFDAC, not fit for human consumption”, the governor stated.