Nigeria - LEST WE START OUR ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION FROM THE END!
A friend of mine once told me how someone started a 100k ton p.a Cassava starch company simply because Nigeria is the largest producer of Cassava in the world. What he didn"t realise however is that Nigeria only produce a little more than enough Cassava for consumption.
Less than two years down the road, the Cassava Starch processing company was closed down because they couldn't find enough Cassava to feed their lines! I see a similar trend to the above examples around the efforts and talks about rice processing plants in Nigeria.
Nigeria is the largest producer of Cassava in the world, but we only produce a little more than enough Cassava for consumption. Cassava Starch processing companies closed down because they couldn’t find enough Cassava to feed their lines! The Lagos State governor also announced that Lagos will establish the biggest rice mill in Africa. I must say, But who is going to produce all the rice paddy?
I know at least 2 functional rice processing plants in Kebbi state with 16 tons ph processing capacity.... Maybe a 3rd is underway. And there are several small rice processing mills being established. In Kano, I know at least 2 such rice mills. Only about 2 weeks ago, a 1b Naira rice mill was commissioned in Kano. The Lagos State governor also announced that Lagos will establish the biggest rice mill in Africa. I must say, that all these are very important strides... But who is going to produce all the rice paddy that will go into these processing plants?
In all of these, government has paid very little attention towards the development of rural farmers. Whenever we celebrate increase in production, it is because of increase land use or expansion - Instead of working on increase yield per hectare. Extension services in Nigeria is near extinction with a ratio of about 1 extension worker to 10,000 farmers. Paddy harvesting is still done using archaic methods of beating paddy on mats.
The government needs to focus more on the primary production of paddy rice. Help the rural farmers to become more effective & increase their productivity per hectare. It’s no rocket science - all the government needs is commitment, will power and sincerity of purpose.
1. Increase the numbers of extension workers per farmers. And here I mean actual extension workers on the field.
2. Focus on increasing knowledge base of the rural farmers. Provide them with small mechanized tools that are suitable for their work to help reduce post-harvest losses. Provide them with improved seedlings & teach them simple innovative farm practices.
3. Focus more on the REAL farmers not the "portfolio" farmers. We can start by collecting data of rural farmers across the country.
The government must focus on starting our Agricultural diversification efforts from the beginning lest it suffers same faith like the many policies before it.