PLANS by the current administration
to make the country self-sufficient in
rice production by 2019 received a
boost recently with the inauguration of
a project that promises great support in
this direction.
The two-year initiative – Rice Seed
Up-Scaling Project – was inaugurated
by the Director- General, National
Agricultural Seed Council (NASC),
Mr Olusegun Ojo, in Abuja recently.
The project, which runs from March,
2016 to December, 2017, is an initiative
of the West and Central African
Council for Agricultural Research and
Development (CORAF/WECARD) on
the platform of the West Africa Seed
Programme (WASP).
It is being implemented by CORAF/
WECARD in collaboration with the Seed
Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria
(SEEDAN), the umbrella body of
private seed companies in the country;
and the African Seed Trade Association
(AFSTA). Other participants in the
project who are key players in the rice
value chain are selected seed companies
such as the Rice Farmers Association
of Nigeria (RIFAN), input suppliers,
financial service providers, rice millers
and the NASC.
The United States Agency for
International Development (USAID)
is funding the project with 800,000
dollars, while SEEDAN is providing the
technical support to ensure a seamless
implementation. Stakeholders believe
that the project will significantly aid
government’s efforts at bridging the
huge gap between local production and
demand for rice which currently stands
between five and 6.4 million metric
tonnes annually.
In spite of its huge potential and
comparative advantage in rice
production, Nigeria currently ranks as
the second largest importer of rice in
the world and the largest net importer
in Africa, spending an estimated N356
billion on importation of the staple
annually.
Speaking at the project inauguration
and planning meeting, the President
of SEEDAN, Mr Richard Olafare, said
that the project would significantly
aid government’s efforts at addressing
the production shortfall. The initiative,
according to him, seeks to strengthen the
production capabilities of the country’s
rice farmers and other players in the subsector,
including seed companies and link
them to improved inputs and finance.
Olafare explained that the project would
bring a total of 20,000 hectares of farmland
in selected seven states under cultivation
using 1,200 metric tonnes of certified
seeds to produce a targeted 60,000 metric
tonnes of paddy rice by December 2017.
The SEEDAN president listed the selected
states as Kano, Niger, Kebbi, Zamfara,
Benue, Ekiti and Ebonyi, adding that they
were selected based on their comparative
advantage in rice production.
According to him, more than 20,000
farmers, 50 per cent of whom will be
women and 40 per cent youths, will be
engaged in the Rice Seed Up-Scaling
Project in the targeted states.
“The project is in support of the
ECOWAS Rice Offensive Programme,
which has taken off in four pilot countries
namely Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali
and Senegal. Among the four countries,
Nigeria has the largest chunk of the
budget and this is a reflection of the
significant role the country is playing as
a leader in the regional seed industry,’’
Olafare said.
He solicited the support of stakeholders
and commitment of participants to ensure
that the country did not fail in the task of
realising the project objectives. The project
lead consultant, Mr Okelola Folarin, said
other high points of the project were seed
planning, connecting and strengthening
the capacity of actors along the rice value
chain as well as facilitating access to
equipment and proper storage.
“The main objective of the project is to
promote the use of certified high yielding
rice seeds. We want to scale up the use
of improved rice seeds. Rice has been
observed to be very important for food
security sustainability in West Africa vis
a vis increasing farmers income, creating
wealth and making life better for the
farming populace.
“We want to improve on the livelihood
of people and one way to do it is by
promoting rice production; and you
cannot promote production without
quality seeds. So, this project is looking
at utilising 1,200 metric tonnes of seeds
within the two years. It is expected that
if these seeds are used, we are going to
be able to produce about 60,000 metric
tonnes of paddy for the two years.
“We have split this into what we can do
in 2016 and what we will do in 2017. For
2016, we are looking at producing about
48,000 tonnes of paddy and the balance of
12,000 tonnes will be produced in 2017,’’
he said.
The lead consultant explained that the project was designed to provide a link
between the participating rice farmers
and selected millers, including Labana,
Miva, Lagos Rice, and Onyx. “We have
been able to secure the buy in of those
selected rice millers, who will serve as
off-takers for the targeted 60,000 metric
tonnes that will be produced by the
participating farmers.
“You can see the connection being
provided here; the seed companies will
supply the farmers with high yielding
seeds to be certified by the NASC, while
the seed millers will buy off the produce
from the farmers. It goes beyond that
because you cannot produce when
the capacity is not there. We are also
building the capacity of more than
120 persons cutting across the various
sectors of the rice value chain.
“We are equally going to promote
demonstration because we know that
some varieties have been developed
over times that are not in the hands of
the farmers. So, we want to compare
these varieties with the ones we are
promoting to make sure that in the next
few years, we can replace materials
in the hands of farmers with better
varieties that have been developed by
research,’’ he said.
Mr Olusegun Ojo, the Director-
General of NASC, said that the council
had a critical role to play in the project
implementation, being the sector
regulator. “NASC is a member of the
national project steering committee;
and our role is to guarantee the quality
of seeds to be deployed by ensuring
that participating seed companies are
not only accredited but also play by the
rules.
“In other words, the council will carry
out third party quality assurance for all
seed production and provide clearance
for seed suppliers under the project,’’
he said.
The Head of Operations, Bank of
Agriculture (BOA), Ruphina Atima,
informed the participants that the bank
would support the project through
provision of funds to participating
companies and farmers using the
Anchor Borrowers model of the Central
Bank of Nigeria. Also speaking, the
Agricultural Officer of First City
Monumental Bank, Mr Uchenna Obih,
said the bank was ready to support the
initiative, adding that its management
had already approved N2 billion to
support seed production in the country.
The highpoint of the meeting was
the inauguration of the seven-member
National Project Steering Committee
consisting of SEEDAN, RIFAN, NASC,
NCRI, BOA, FCMB and WASP.
Stakeholders rose from the meeting
with a number of resolutions, including
the need for close collaboration among
financial institutions, NASC and
SEEDAN. They also resolved to sign
Memoranda of Understanding among
themselves and begin immediate
implementation of the project to end
rice importation.NAN


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