Rice farmers and processors have lamented high cost of transportation, shortage of electricity supply and expensive planting inputs as challenges confronting the industry despite the market created through the government policies on food importation.Marketing Manager of a rice-processing company in Ibadan, Oyo State, Mr Amos Fakunle, said transporting tonnes of rice from the farm to the production factory poses a great challenge as a result of the bad and muddy roads, saying, “This is because rice is planted in swampy areas.”
Fakunle explained to The Guardian at the processing facility that “transporters charge really high fares. For example, if the bags of rice are to be taken from Bachita to Ibadan, it will cost a total of N250,000 while from Ibadan to Osun, it is about N200,000.”Another challenge of processors, he added, is that most paddies are loaded with dirt, stones and sand, with wastes accounting for about 30 per cent of the raw materials.
“When the rice finally gets to the factory, it takes a lot of efforts to wash and sieve, because when it comes from the farm, it is usually filled with stones, sand, shafts and premature paddies. What would be left are the remnants, which we process and send to the public. If we can achieve a volume over 90 per cent from the paddies, the prices will be beaten down and this is quite the contrary,” he lamented.
Giving details of the hurdles of processors, he explained that “We face so many challenges. One of them is the short supply of electricity, which has encouraged the use of generators. The production of rice takes a lot of processes, after the cleaning comes the soaking for 24 hours. Then it will be ready for parboiling. Then the next day, we wash the soaked rice to get rid of dirt.
“We use hot water to soak the rice to eliminate bacteria and other germs. For the parboiling stage, rice is filled and it is covered for steaming in the boilers. It is parboiled, after which we release it into the drying beds. Regardless of the weather, production goes on and the parboiled rice is dried under our roof using locally fabricated charcoal-powered dryers.”
To satisfy Nigerian buyers, Fakunle added that “we must ensure that only quality rice is produced, make it available and affordable and without stones and dirt so as to satisfy them.” Chairman of Kebbi State Rice Farmers’ Association, Mr Muhammad Sahabi Augie, also listed challenges of farmers as poor road networks, high cost of inputs and loans, pest infestation, and parasitic activities of middlemen.
He explained that roads to most farms in the state have been washed off, making it very difficult to move input to farms and harvests to the marketplaces.Augie added that inputs such as fertiliser, insecticides and herbicides have become more expensive, eroding the profitability of farmers. Good rice seeds are expensive too, he explained to The Guardian.
Activities of processors too constitute a challenge to farmers, he argued. Processors always want to exploit farmers most of the times. Another challenge he identified is poor access to agricultural mechanisation equipment which prevents intensive production, retarding productivity of small-scale farmers.He advocated subsidies for farmers, especially those producing rice, while he suggested that a nine-per cent interest rate is un-sustainable for farmers. He advised that five per cent interest rate could help farmers.
A rice farmer and processor in Iwo, Osun State, Mr Popoola Ayoade, said with his experience, most rice farmers keep and recycle old low-yielding varieties, mostly mixed with short and long grains.Affirming the exploitation of farmers by middlemen and processors, Popoola said a tonne (1000kgs) of paddies costs about N100,000 now, while average yield per hectare is about two to three tonnes.
Pa Akinade Samuel, Chairman of Oyo State chapter of the Rice Farmers’ Association (RIFAN) said one of the challenges is inability to increase yield per hectare as a result of poor or low inputs. Farmers are incapacitated by a number of factors, he said, including funding, access to quality inputs and new technologies through extension services.