Nigeria has become Africa’s biggest rice producer, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Sabo Nanono said in Abuja on Tuesday at an occasion commemorating the 2020 World Food Day.“Significant progress has been made to improve agricultural productivity since the inception of the present administration.
“To boost food security, Nigeria has curbed imports and has established a robust rice production programme to encourage more rice production at home.
“Efforts in this direction are starting to show results as Nigeria is now Africa’s largest producer of rice. The country is also the largest producer of cassava in the world,” Nanono said.
The central bank barred access to foreign exchange aimed at facilitating rice importation in 2015, a drive targeting self-sufficiency, and has backed loans worth as least N40 billion to help smallholders ramp up output.
Government also went ahead to prohibit rice imports though land borders and kept huge 70 per cent tariffs on imports through ports.
But the Buhari administration’s interventionist reforms in food production has been accompanied by a myriad of teething problems as import control measures have kept prices artificially high and farmers face elevated operating costs of processing paddy at mills.
Cultivating paddy fields has been limited by low investment in irrigation, roads, storage as well as mechanisation.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation has said less 1 per cent of Nigeria’s farmland is irrigated compared to a global average of more than 20 per cent.