Four years ago, the Lagos State government promised to flood the state with locally produced rice; Lagosians are yet to feel the impact of that promise
| By Augustine Adah | Dec. 17, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT
AT the commencement of Eko rice project in 2008, the Lagos State ministry of agriculture and co-operatives, promised Lagosians that within a year or two, the market would be filled with Eko rice. But more than four years after, residents of Lagos are yet to see the promised brand of parboiled rice.
Friday Obike, a resident of Ikorodu, who deals on parboiled rice, complained that he has never seen the rice in the market. “It is a good thing to have local rice that can compete favourably with the imported brand, but I have never come across Eko rice in the market” he said. Obike is not the only person that is ignorant of Eko rice. Olaitan Anifowoshe a food vendor in Ikeja, Lagos, doubted if any brand of Eko rice exists at all. She claimed that for quite some years now, people in Lagos and Ogun States have known about Ofada, a local brand of rice processed in Ogun State and not Eko rice.
Rotimi Fashola, agricultural consultant to Lagos State government has however, argued that the Eko rice project, which started about four years ago, has made a significant progress both in processing of the parboiled rice and in creating job opportunities for youths in Lagos State. “The pilot project, which started in Epe and Badagry local government areas, has now engaged close to 2,000 youths working directly on the farm lands and in the milling of the paddy rice” Fahola said. The consultant attributed the inability of the rice to get to every shops in Lagos to the growing population. “It is true that in our projection about four years ago, we intend to reduce the consumption of imported rice considerably but the ever increasing number of Lagos resident has made every projection and planning inaccurate”, he said.
The consultant promised that with the efforts of the ministry to acquire 500 hectares of land for commercial rice project in Ogun State, the Eko brand of rice would be more available in the market. At the moment, Eko rice could be purchased at the milling factory in Ikorodu and some few rice dealers. The agricultural expert commended the commitment of the Lagos State government to the development of agriculture which culminated in the commissioning of an integrated rice mills at Imota, Ikorodu this year. The new rice farm in Ogun State is expected to supply paddies for the new mill.
The target of the Lagos State government is to replace by 25 percent of the imported rice consumed in the state with Eko rice by 2015. The rice comes in 5kg, 25kg and 50kg bags. While 5kg is being sold at N800, and the 25 kg bag for N1600 while the 50kg goes for N8, 000. Arrangement has been concluded by the new mill factory to commence processing of the rice for sale to customers this yuletide.
Fashola believes that the country has the capacity to produce enough rice both for local consumption and for export if the federal and state governments demonstrate enough commitment to invest and encourage local rice farmers. With that, he argued, the huge amount of foreign exchange spent on the importation of rice annually, would be eliminated. It is estimated that Nigeria, one of the world leading consumers of parboiled rice spent about N1b daily on the importation of parboiled rice to the country.
Apart from Lagos, other states are also intensifying effort to make Nigeria a leading producer of rice and as well end the long years of importation. Recently, the Sokoto State government signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with Novel Management of Geneva, for a rice project worth N35b. The agreement would lead to the production of 200,000 tons of milled rice per annum and also create about 10,000 jobs.
Similar agreement was also signed between the federal ministry of agriculture and the Taraba State government for a 30,000 hectare rice project in the state. The N70b joint venture rice cultivation and processing agreement between the Kwara State government and Vasolar SL 2006, of Spain, is expected to commence in December 2012. States like Ebonyi, Kano and Niger are also taking the rice project seriously as their priority programmes.