Challenges facing rice processing in Nigeria

April 27, 2021

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Over the past five years, the federal and state governments have been distributing high-yielding rice varieties to farmers — those that are tolerant of climate change — to boost farmers’ rice yields and food security. Fertilizer and other inputs are part of an integrated approach to help the rice farmers cope with low soil fertility and changing weather patterns.

The President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Aminu Goronyo, noted that farmers had been planting more rice and also getting more income. For Goronyo, rice production has, for long, played a pivotal role in the country’s socio-economic development.

As the economy develops, he noted, the significance of rice as an enabler increase. Goronyo attributed the increase in rice production to the Anchor Borrower’s Programme (ABP), a ban on forex for food import, and land border closure.

”That alone is a sign, an indication, and a true testimony that this administration has achieved self-sufficiency in rice production for Nigerians,” he said.

With the ABP, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) aggregator scheme, the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), a $500 million non-bank financial institution, owned by the CBN, among non-governmental interventions, Goronyo is hopeful of the sector achieving more than an average production volume of eight million metric tonnes.

He has support in the Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) in Kebbi, Alhaji Muhammed Sahabi-Augie, a successful farmer. Muhammed believes Nigeria is on track to be self-sufficient in rice production after stocks jumped following better weather and increased support for farmers. He has been targeting rice self-sufficiency and the Kebbi Government, according to him, gives incentives to farmers to meet this objective.  But a mix of poor maintenance and investment in infrastructure for growing rice has hit production across the country.

A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, an international auditing firm, noted that Nigeria’s rice statistics suggest there is an enormous potential to raise productivity and increase production but this has to come with a deliberate act towards mechanization. Therefore, stakeholders, such as Augie, support the government and the private sector’s efforts of opening the milling and warehouse sector.

Modern rice mills and warehouses are better positioned to increase private stocks, which, in turn, would buffer price fluctuations. More efficient mills, he believes, would trigger higher productivity and usher in quality improvements at the farm level.

There are increasing efforts to ramp up paddy production so that the country will be more self-sufficient in the supply of the grain.

In Lagos, rice farmers need all the help they can get. A model, Lagos State is enhancing rice production by identifying the right fertilizer and varieties to use,  as well as examining the irrigation systems and conducting soil profiling.

The Lagos Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Abisoye Olusanya, said the state had the potential to improve its rice production capabilities. The Imota Rice Mill, touted by the government, as one of the largest mills of its kind in the world, is expected to be ready before the end of the year.

On completion, in line with the estimated installed infrastructure of the facility, the mill will have the capacity to process more than 2.5 million, 50  kilo gram (Kg) rice bags yearly. It is also expected to create close to 250,000 jobs.

The Integrated Rice Mill is a 22-hectare facility, with the mill taking about 8.5 hectares, consisting of a set of new mills, two warehouses, 16 silos with a capacity of 40 metric tonnes each, water treatment plant, effluent processing plant, staff quarters, administrative block, car park, and fire-fighting facility.

With many states ramping up plans to increase self-sufficiency in rice production, Ms. Olusanya sees the industry offering a high level of automation.

She stressed that Lagos was determined to be at the forefront of innovation for the rice processing industry, having acquired process automation technology and harnessed the full potential of modern milling.

Integrated rice mills are driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning technology which helps to reduce waste, save energy, and provide a quality product.

All over the world, Swiss multinational plant equipment manufacturer, Buhler, has been involved in the rollout of integrated rice mills. It is providing technical assistance in the 32 metric tonnes (MT) per hour rice mill established by Lagos State Government in Imota, Epe, Lagos.

Deputy National President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Lagos, Mr. Segun Atho, said: ”We have almost 114,000 hectares of land earmarked for agriculture in Lago. If at least 10 to 15 per cent is open to rice cultivation, I believe that the sky is our limit.”

In Achalla in Awka North Local Government Area, Anambra State, a rice processing facility has been inaugurateed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)/Federal Government of Nigeria-Value Chain Development Programme (FGN/VCDP) Technical Implementation Support Mission Team, led by Hajia Fatima Mukhtar-Buhari.

Speaking with rice cluster beneficiaries, during a visit to the state, Hajia Mukhtar-Buhari, who is the IFAD/VCDP National Office Advisor, Market Enterprise Development, urged them to make the best use of incentives given to them.

According to her, the Federal Government will continue to look into their needs to meet them, lamenting the delay in agricultural activities occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this is not all. The National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) has stated its readiness to install three rice mills in Adamawa State. Its Executive Secretary, Prince Paul Ikonne, said with the mills, it would be easy and more profitable for farmers in Adamawa State.

“We were made to understand that Adamawa produces a lot of paddy that is processed somewhere else, so NALDA is bringing processing mills that will be in three different locations in order to process and give value to their produce,” he said.

Moreover, the Edo State Government is preparing for a major role in the rice industry.   The state has taken delivery of a rice mill worth over N26 million, donated by the Japanese Government. The Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Yutaka Kikuta, said his government-funded project would further enhance farmers’ income and foster the socio-economic development of communities.

Kikuta said the project would provide rice parboiling equipment, hauler, de-husker, de-stoner machine, soaking tanks, steaming tanks, a generator and a bagging machine.

“The facilities will enhance the quality and marketability of milled rice in this community and nearby communities, thereby enhancing the income of rice farmers as well as fostering the socio and economic development of these communities in particular and Edo State,” he stated.

    Coming of integrated rice mills

Today, smart technology holds the ace for farmers struggling to grow and process rice. Among the benefits are lower production costs and higher income for processors.

The  Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI II), inaugurated by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and co-funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is driving massive processing of paddy rice.

The project is running in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Tanzania. Small farmers in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania are being supported in boosting their rice harvests, improving product quality and raising their income.

Through CARI, rice cultivation in sub-Saharan Africa is being future-proofed by leveraging new technologies and climate-friendly approaches. To date, more than 190,000 farmers have been able to increase their income by up to 700 percent, thus, improving the nutritional status of some 820,000 people. So far, 30,000 CARI farmers have been trained to SRP standard. The aim is to reach more than 100,000 people by the end of the year.


Despite the efforts and government support that go into rice farming, little or no attention is paid to the processing of the crop. This, by implication, increases the time, power, and money spent on milling the raw produce into edible grains.

Specifically, the rice milling sector is facing hurdles on how to grow rice and ways in which to increase rice productivity through the optimal use of chemicals, fertilizer, agriculture machinery, and oil. In addition to this, analysts said investments in industrial milling are undertaken by actors who lack experience in managing new technologies. Furthermore, unavailability and lack of local markets for spare parts of imported milling equipment are hampering proper maintenance and provoke milling breakdowns.

So far, rice milling is one of the smallest agro-processing industries. Paddy grain is milled either in raw condition or after par-boiling. Rice milling systems range from small-scale to large, complex modern rice-processing installations. Rice production is dominated by smallholder farmers, not by big private or state-owned enterprises.

Smallholder farmers account for around 70 percent of the nation’s rice production, each farmer holding an average land area of fewer than 0.8 hectares. Further value addition, such as the preparation of brown rice, puffed rice, flaked rice; ready-to-eat foods, and extruded foods will increase the income.


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