By Adelola Amihere
In renewed efforts aimed at achieving self -sufficiency in rice production, the Federal Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with MV Agro Engineers Nigeria and MV Agro Engineers PVT Limited, India, to procure 10 integrated large scale rice processing plants.
The rice mills according to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, will be delivered in the next 18 months and distributed to interested farmers who will loan them from government.
Addressing journalists after the occasion of the MoU signing, Chief Ogbeh said when ready, the government would advertise the mills for interested Nigerians who have the capacity to loan it and make 10 per cent down payment for the mills.
“It will be advertised, those who want to obtain it from the states will identify, they will come and show they can obtain it, and they have the capacity to pay 10 per cent down payment and they have the technical capacity to own a pond operate a mill, then we will give them, they will install the mill, then the Bank of Agriculture will take over the repayment of loan over a period of 10 years”.
The Minister also revealed that virtually all the states in Nigeria have their rice mills which were procured by government, also, the private sector has also been involved in establishing of rice mills across the country.
According to him, for Nigeria to achieve self- sufficiency in rice production, about 60 large scale rice processing plants were required.
“There are about 16 large existing rice mills that mill about 100 tons per day, some mill about 300 tons per day, Dangote just brought in 10 rice mills which will produce one million tons of rice per annum.
“But there are smaller ones we gave out, about 200 mills of 10 tons and 20 tons per day, operating in the villages, we are buying more and giving out because the smaller mills seems to produce more rice than the big mills added up, but they are scattered all over the country.
“Virtually all the states have the smaller mills, but the efficiency of those mills are very slow, very slow, they are not efficient enough, they don’t de-stone the rice, so that makes it difficult to eat their rice, so we are equipping them with de-stoners, eventually with polishers and color sorters to pick out black spots in rice.”
Chief Ogbeh further explained that using agro-industraliasation to drive self-sufficiency in rice production was designed to attract youth into agriculture to feed the growing population in Nigeria.
“This is the time for the youths, they have ideas, they have ambitions but the issue of access to credit has blocked their ways and they can’t make any success of their lives and unless government leads the way through these programs, we are walking into a future of increasing anger and frustration among young people especially.
“We are insistent in achieving self-sufficiency in rice production, because we simply can’t afford to spend over $5 million a day importing rice, we don’t have the money. And I don’t think any country can afford that line of expenditure and hope to survive.”