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Historic Oppotunities for Rice Growers in Nigeria

The rice value chain in Nigeria is in a period of growth,
thanks in particular to strong support policies. Work remains
to be done, however, to give growers access to improved
seeds and improve quality, so that locally grown rice can fully
meet the needs of urban consumers.

Local rice cultivation provides
livelihoods for many producers,
processors and vendors
in Nigeria. However, it does not satisfy
the totality of consumer demand in
the country. Nigeria imports on average
1.7 million tonnes of white rice
annually, making the country as the
world’s second-largest rice importer.
The cost of these rice imports represents
a significant amount of lost
earnings for the country in terms of
jobs and income.

Proactive Rice-Growing Policies. Given
the crucial role of rice in the food
security of urban and rural households
alike, development of rice growing has
long been considered a priority in Nigeria.
The country has adopted a range
of instruments designed to protect local
production. The Nigerian National
Rice Development Strategy (NRDS) set
up in 2009 aims to make the country
self-sufficient in rice by raising production
of paddy rice from 3.4 million
tonnes in 2007 to 12.8 million
tonnes in 2018. THe NRDS outlines
three priority areas of focus to achieve
this level of production : (i) improving
post-harvest processing and treatment ;
(ii) developing irrigation and extending
cultivated lands ; and (iii) making
seed, fertiliser and farming equipment
more readily available.
Policy statements declaring the goal
of self-sufficiency in rice for Nigeria
are not new. The Presidential Initiative
on rice implemented from 2001 to
2007 was centred on developing rice
production, processing and exports,
and aimed to achieve self-sufficiency
and increase exports by 2007. While
this initiative repositioned rice growing
at the centre of the country’s development
concerns, and spurred a 4.5%
increase in paddy production between
2001 and 2007, it did not achieve its
main objective. Framed with a longterm
outlook, the NRDS includes
several key measures, e.g. subsidies
for inputs (50%for seed and 25% for fertiliser) and reduced custom tariffs
on imports of agricultural machinery
such as tractors, and on processing
equipment. If suitable mechanisms
are put into place to ensure that subsidies
are directed first and foremost
to the poorest farmers and to the right
actors, one can reasonably expect the
national strategy to stimulate domestic
rice production.
The domestic rice chain is currently
dominated by trade on traditional
markets. New types of institutional
arrangements are emerging, however,
and involve the private sector to some
extent, including multinational corporations.
Various forms of contractual
arrangements between farmers and
processors are now being tested to ensure
production of high-quality paddy
and white rice. Measures to stimulate
investment, such as concessional loans
for investment in processing, are increasingly
attracting foreign capital.
The emergence of new stakeholders is
also guiding political decisions affecting
the rice sector in Nigeria. In 2010,
rice importers, processing centres and
vendors in Nigeria spearheaded an effective
campaign to address politicians,
obtaining a ban on re-exports of rice
imported to Nigeria from Benin.

Underexploited Production Capacity.
Paddy rice is, for the most part, grown
by small farmers in Nigeria ; over 30%
of rice growers cultivate less than 1 ha,
and close to 60% less than 5 ha. Although
the paddy harvest rose from
under 1 million tonnes in the 1970s to
4.2 million tonnes in 2010, production
has not kept pace with demand. There
is considerable potential for extending
and intensifying rice production in the
five rice-growing ecosystems found in
Nigeria (plateau, rainfed plains, irrigated
plains, lowlands and mangrove).
The land area that could be cultivated
is roughly 79 million hectares. Less
than 10% of the 3.4 million hectares
that could be irrigated are currently
irrigated. Rice yields in irrigated areas are between 3 and 3.5 t/ha, much lower
than the potential yields estimated at
between 7 and 9 t/ha. This production
gap could be bridged by introducing
improved varieties, with better use of
water resources and integrated management
of rice growing.
The high cost of seed is one of the
main factors behind the low level of seed
renewal by farmers. Some fifty-seven
varieties of rice have been made available
to growers, mainly through joint
selection mechanisms. These improved
varieties have not been widely disseminated,
however, and most rice growers
continue to use primarily seed rice
produced and stocked on their farms.
The formal seed delivery system is regulated
by the National Agricultural Seed
Council (NASC). Pre-base seed is produced
by research institutes, e.g. the
National Cereals Research Institute
(NCRI) and the Africa Rice Centre.
Basic seed rice is then produced by
NASC and certified seed by commercial
seed producers.

Quality at Stake. The top priority of
Nigeria’s NRDS is to improve postharvest
conservation and processing
of rice. Farmers’ traditional practices
for harvesting, threshing, drying
and storing rice generally diminish
the quality and homogeneity of paddy
delivered to rice processing companies.
Good-quality paddy is often
mixed with damaged paddy rice that
contains impurities. To improve postharvest
operations, better technology
will have to be introduced, and the different
actors in the chain will need to
be informed and trained. Quality will
also have to be emphasised through a
system of standards.
New parboiling and hulling techniques
should also be adopted to better
clean rice and enhance homogeneity
compared to imported rice. Today,
parboiling is done mainly using cottage-
industry techniques. Mechanised
parboiling techniques do exist, but are
not widely disseminated. Small and medium-sized business are predominant
in rice processing. To achieve improvement
in this subsector, the Nigerian
government has decided to allocate
10 billion nairas (over $50 million)
to support the creation of seventeen
new private rice processing companies.
Despite this, significant investment in
quality processing techniques remains
necessary, in particular for removing
stones and for bleaching rice. These
investments should be encouraged by
the prospect of obtaining better prices
for quality hulled rice.

© Africa Rice Center

Strong Rice Consumption Drives the
Since the 1960s, when rice was
served essentially at banquets and celebrations,
it has become one of the
basic foods in Nigerians’ diet. Urban
growth has entrained a continual rise in
annual rice consumption, which went
from 8 kg per person in 1960 to 27 kg
per person in 2007. The Nigerian rice
market is divided into segments by
price and by quality. Traditional rice
dishes are prepared with different types
of rice, so that rice consumption varies
across the country. Nigeria is a large
basin of local rice consumption, and
hence a market that also draws rice
produced in neighbouring countries
such as Cameroon.
Consumers in large urban centres
have a marked preference for high-quality
imported rice. The strong preference
for parboiled rice is not uniform
across all the states in Nigeria. Nonparboiled
rice is consumed in quantity
in Ekiti state, while most consumers
in Niger state prefer parboiled rice. In
south-western Nigeria, the local Ofada
varieties of rice bring high prices at
market. Several studies of consumer
preferences in Nigeria show that the
cleanness and uniform character of
imported rice make it more attractive
than locally grown rice. To enable local
rice to gain a significant share of
the market currently held by imported
rice, particularly among high-income
urban consumers, substantial work and
investment are needed.

The Need for Long-Term Investment.
Despite support policies, the Nigerian
rice-growing sector cannot keep up
with the needs of local consumers,
notably due to the instability of public
policy. Institutions to build better
horizontal and vertical coordination
of local rice-growing activity must
have a stable environment if they are
to be effective. Current efforts at the
national level to establish solid ties between
different actors in the chain are
still insufficient. Major investment is
necessary to build the organizational
capacity of growers’ organizations, ensure
better circulation of information
between the links in the chain, and
establish contractual agreements and
ensure that they are respected. It is
also crucial to take steps to improve
public infrastructures, consolidate
the electricity distribution network,
and repair and extend the roadways.
It will take time for these investments
to bear fruit in terms of bigger harvests
of high-quality local rice.

The Nigerian
office of the Africa
Rice Centre ( is
based at the
Institute of
Agriculture (IITA)
in Ibadan. The
centre’s objectives
are to develop
improved varieties
of rice and new
techniques suited
to the various
ecosystems in the
country. Research
focuses on the
selection of highyield,

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