NIGERIA – Investors in the Nigerian rice industry are planning to invest about US$693.7 million to enhance domestic production and save on importation costs the country has always incurred.

The Guardian Nigeria reports that the announcement was made by the Minister of Agriculture Audi Ogbeh during a Rice Conference organised by Agro Nigeria.

This is an addition to US$832.5m investment in rice mills by key stakeholders in the rice production value chain.

With increase in local production and effort to make the local variety qualitative and more attractive to Nigerians, the minister said the country would save $300million from import substitution annually.

According to him, there were 21 large integrated rice mills with other 14 mills expected to start operation to come to a total processing capacity of 1.22 million metric tonnes yearly, and these mills will have their milled rice in the Nigerian market.

This expansion has been coupled with growing consumer demand and preference for local rice due to quality and taste compared to imported rice.

The investment which will be used to build 14 new rice mills will add to 5,000 skilled workers and over 5 million jobs already created by the Rice Producers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN).

Ogbeh also noted that the integrated rice mills have employed about 2 million unskilled workers and has contributed to a 90% decline in Nigeria’s rice import bill.

He added that paddy production had seen exponential growth, reaching 6.9 million MT in 2016, or 4.14 million MT of milled rice, and 8.019 million MT, or 4.81 million MT of milled rice in 2017.

Nigeria aims to be a self-sufficiency nation in rice production by the year 2020.

“Estimated crop area of rice in 2017 was 3.9 million hectares, which represent an increase of about 6.9% over the 3.17 million hectares cultivated in 2016.

All the states of the federation recorded an increase in rice production.

Over the last three years, we’ve recorded increase in production from an average of 2.5 tonnes to five tonnes per hectare,” said Ogbeh.

Rice demand in Nigeria based on per capita consumption stands at 9.5 million MT of paddy, which is 6.8 million MT of milled rice.