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Rice (Nigeria)

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Rice (Oryza sativa) is a staple food consumed in Nigerian and has witnessed considerable growing demand as more consumers move away from local carbohydrates diets such as yam and garri to making rice the pre-eminent staple food in Nigeria. Many Nigerians now obtain about 30% of their cereal based diet from rice.

In 2005, the country produced about 2.3 million tons of rice and also imported more than a million tons during the year.


[edit] Production

Rice is usually planted by either a man or woman in a household or by commercial farmers; cultivation starts from April-May-June and then harvested from August-November. It is either planted for subsistence consumption or for further processing and sale. There are different varieties planted including those classified as African or traditional varieties and others imported into the country or developed by research institutions. Lately, for the past two decades, the yield of rice per hectare has been diminishing thereby increasing the interest for high yielding varieties by commercial rice farmers coupled with interest in varieties that mature early. Most rice farmers produce one rice crop per year but others with access to irrigation channels can produce more than one crop per year. However, frequent planting can subject the soil to rapid loss in nutrients leading to low yields. To combat soil exhaustion, farmers resort to buying fertilizer or using organic manure. Rice seeds with access to enough water usually matures within 3 months with many of then already pre-sold to traders. After harvesting, the rice is taken away from the farm to a site for processing where it is par-boiled to soften the husk before milling and marketing. After the rice is par-boiled, it is laid down to dry, at this point the rice is at the danger of mixing with stones diminishing its marketability.

[edit] Ecological zones

Most of Nigeria's six ecological zones is suitable for rice production though it is grown in natural flooded areas, irrigated lands, upland areas of adequate and suitable rainfall and within tidal mangrove swamps. Rice production in Nigeria was likely started at periodically flooded river bottom lands known as Fadamas. Though, fadamas are adequate for growing rice, the variability of floods adds worrying hazards to farmers. Fadamas and other rainfed lowlands along the flood plains of the Niger-Benue river systems account for about 50% of Nigeria's rice production.

In the late 1940s and the 1950s, towards the end of World War 2 imported food stuffs became limited in supply, an irrigated rice scheme was later implemented at Badeggi where a research center is now located, plans were then later made for employing tractors in rice farms in the North with both projects meant to increase Nigeria's production of the staple. In Eastern Nigeria successful rice experiments at Okpoha and Abakaliki was conducted with additional mechanized methods included at an Abakaliki farm to further find avenues to increase the production of the crop.

Today, Irrigated land schemes account for about 16% of Nigeria's rice production while the mangroves account for about 10%.

In the early 1950s, the Northern region produced close to 80% of Nigeria's 246,000 tons of paddy rice. Depending on seed variety, water supply, soil fertility and harvesting, the yields per acre was comparable to those of India and Thailand but behind Japan, the United States and Indonesia. The 1960s saw rice production in Nigeria hover around 300,000 tons per year. Production in the 1970s was mostly in the range of 400,000-500,000 tons of rice while the oil boom of the era led to an increase in demand reaching 10% annually. At the time, imported rice from the United States especially the Uncle Bens rice brand became popular. Government policy to restrict importation of rice in the 1980s led to increased rice production with 1 million tons produced towards the end of the decade from a range of 400,000-500,000 produced towards the end of the 1970s.

Much of Nigeria's rice planted for consumption falls under subsistence farming leaving holes for the importation of parboiled rice to feed Nigeria's urban population.

[edit] Rice importation

Since the oil boom of the 1970s, domestic rice production has fallen below total demand for consumption leading to the importation of rice to close the shortfall. Nigeria's import of rice became statistically significant in 1976 when the country imported about 50,000 tons. Lately, the country imports close to 1 million tonnes of rice discounting any that may be coming in from Nigeria's sometimes porous borders.

[edit] Government policies

The increasing prominence of rice in the diet of Nigerians and many West Africans has led to increased interference from the government in rice production, supply and distribution. A coup plot in Liberia in 1980s that led to the exit of President Tolbert succeeded after demonstrations against increases in the price of rice. The policy of the Nigerian government since 1979 with respect to an import restriction on rice in the early 1980s and outright ban in 1985 signifies an intention of self sufficiency.

Prior to the oil boom of the 1970s, the government placed a high tariff on imported rice at about 66%, rice consumption in the 1960s then was about 3 kg per capital and by 1990 had reached 22 kg per capita.

In 1974, the tariff on rice was was reduced to 20%, it was further reduced in 1975. This period coupled with the economic situation of a potentially over valued exchange rate led to increased importation of cheaper rice which added a greater incentive for local farmers to switch from rice growing to wade off intense price competition from imports. But during the Nigerian second republic, the elected government decided to restrict the importation of rice and later in December 1980 introduced the presidential task force on rice. Two months earlier, rice was placed under a general import license. Both systems later became embroiled in controversy.

From 1985 up to 1995, rice was placed under total importation ban. In 1995, a tariff system was re-introduced with a 100% tariff placed on rice.

[edit] External links