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.

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