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Agriculture - Nutrition | Economy - Development

"Nigeria to export rice by 2007"

afrol News, 20 October - According to Nigeria's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mallam Adamu Bello, "Nigeria will produce rice for export by 2007." Some 3 million hectares are expected to be put under rice cultivation by that date, the Minister said. Nigeria still depends on rice imports, but expects to become self-sufficient by 2005 by tripling its production.

Minister Bello stated this at the recent International Year of Rice celebration, held in the Nigeria capital, Abuja. Mr Bello said that aim of the presidential initiative on rice production, processing and export is to "attain self-sufficiency in local rice production by 2005 while the commodity will be exported by 2007."

The ambitious programme means a 200 percent increase in Nigeria's rice production by 2007. Nigeria is the largest producer of rice in West Africa, but the country with an estimated population of 125 million people still relies on a massive rice importation. The total domestic rice demand is estimated at about 5 million metric tonnes.

To realise this goal, the Minister said that 6 million tonnes of milled rice was to be produced from over 10 million tonnes of paddy rice by 2005, while 3 million hectares were expected to be put under cultivation in 2007 to produce 15 million tonnes of paddy rice, resulting in 9 million tonnes of the milled product.

In addition to tripling the nation's rice production and dramatically increasing the cultivated area, the Nigerian government scheme aims at empowering farmers. The Ministry is planning to buy large numbers of rice milling machines to be deposited in rural areas and further plans to give farmers access to irrigation facilities for rice cultivation.

Minister Bello noted that the commodity was being accorded great recognition by the UN and the Nigerian government because "rice feeds at least half of the world's population." In Nigeria, the Minister observed, rice has become an important staple food as many Nigerians have developed high taste for it.

Mr Bello also expressed appreciation to the Japanese government for its assistance in enhancing rice production in Nigeria. Japan has agreed to fund parts of the ambitious Nigerian government programme. The government is also discussing with a Japanese company for the supply of rice milling machines to farmers at an affordable price to improve rice processing.

Earlier in an introductory remark, the Nigerian Minister of State for Agriculture, Otunba Bamidele Dada, said that rice is fundamental to food security and promised that government would continue to create conducive environment for farmers.

Also speaking, the Chairman of the occasion and the Emir of Dutse, Alhaji Muhammadu Nuhu Sanusi thanked the government for carrying farmers along in its agricultural programmes. The Ministry used the opportunity to exhibit various rice varieties in the country as well as rice-related agriculture equipment.

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