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More conflicting reports on local rice continue to come from govt agencies

Whereas the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh had last week raised alarm that famine will hit the country next year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Tuesday said before the end of 2017, Nigeria will begin to export rice to other countries.

Still yet, weekend, the Ebonyi State Governor gave a matching order to residents to henceforth stop sales of foreign rice in the state. The aim was to stimulate massive individual investments in local rice farming in the state.

Before now, Ebonyi had been known for driving local rice production with distribution links in parts of all South East states.

But going by the assessment of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ebonyi State would soon become a hub for local rice production and supply in the South East and generating more than N6 billion yearly.

Agriculture minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who made the disclosure at the weekend in Abakiliki, Ebonyi State, said the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) of the CBN is revolutionary in the management of the sector’s strategy.

Nigerians had been fed with volumes of stories on local rice production since the coming of this administration, but the underlining fact is that no local rice has surfaced no to talk about saturating the Nigerian market.

The Acting Director, Corporate Communication, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, said this on during a sensitisation/awareness programme for farmers in Bayelsa State on the apex bank’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.

Contrary to details of expiration dates inscribed on each foreign bag of 50kg, Okoroafor alleged that many of the foreign bags of rice imported or smuggled into Nigeria are over nine years old and may not still be good for human consumption after all.

Okoroafor, who said the CBN’s ABP had started yielding fruits, insisted that with the progress so far recorded by the CBN through its agricultural financing policies, the country would begin to export rice by next year.

He said already the harvest in rice this year had exceeded the projections, noting that if the tempo was sustained, by the end of 2017, Nigeria would not only meet its national demands but would export to other countries.

Okoroafor said, “We started a pilot programme in Kebbi State with 78,000 farmers, cultivating an average of one hectare and that was when President Muhammadu Buhari launched the programme in March last year.

“The programme was to enable farmers to plant three times in year – two dry seasons cropping and one rainy season cropping. I am telling you now that Kebbi State has exceeded one million tonnes of rice.

“Not only Kebbi, Ebonyi State has keyed into it. We were there last week and Ebonyi is to give us over 1.2million tonnes of rice in one year. They are harvesting now, they are bagging and they are milling.  Nigerians are booking their Christmas rice in Abakaliki.

“Abia State has ordered rice from Ebonyi State Government.  Other states are keying in. In Kebbi,  Jigawa, Sokoto,  Cross River, rice is coming up. Nigerians are planting rice, producing rice. You need to taste Nigerian rice, it is fresh. Not the nine year old rice from Vietnam,   Thailand and India. Let us feed ourselves. Our rice is healthier; it is not preserved with chemicals.

“We have been to Anambra, Niger, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Cross River and Ebonyi just to ensure that this is not another talk show.  We have seen harvest of rice which brought me to say that the harvest in rice for this year has so far outstripped our projections.

“By the end of 2017, Nigeria will not only meet our national demands which is between six and seven tonnes per year, but we will exceed it that we will have rice to export to other countries.”