‘FG’s 10 rice mills should be given to farmers’ groups, private sector’

Rice Farming

Federal Government’s rice processing mills should have been given to farmers’ association and private operators in a public-private-partnership arrangement.

The government had disclosed that 10 rice mills would be given to Kaduna, Niger, Kogi and seven other states at the rate of N10.7 billion per mill.

The mills, according to stakeholders, could become moribund and go the way of Nigeria Steel Rolling Company and Nigeria Telecommunication Limited (NITEL), among others.

The government had revealed that each mill would produce 1 million metric tonnes per day, and that each state would pay a down payment of 10 per cent.

It also said Bank of Agriculture would disburse and ensure repayment of the loans to the states.

Regional Coordinator, Africa Rice Centre, Ibadan, Dr Francis Nwilene, said the move was commendable, but the government must also ensure that quality rice seeds are made available to farmers in large quantity to feed the mills.

The mills, he said, would be redundant if paddies are not produced by farmers.

High quality seeds would increase paddy productivity per hectare while poor or adulterated seeds would decrease productivity.

A commercial rice farmer in Iwo, Osun State, Mr Gabriel Popoola, said the government should also rehabilitate existing dams and construct new ones for dry season rice farming.

He added that planting rice round the year with rain-fed and irrigation systems would make farmers to be more productive.

Another argument is that the Federal Government should have considered partnership with the private sector operators such as Dangote and Olam groups to manage the 10 mills.

Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Oyo State, Olumide Ayinla, said giving the mills to state governments to manage might not be sustainable.

He explained that partisan politics would make the governments to staff the mills with their supporters, who he said might not be qualify to manage the mills well.

He cited various farm settlements and farm produce processing centres set up by the late Obafemi Awolowo’s government as examples of what the mills could become.

Ayinla advocated that farmers’ associations and private companies were in a better position to successfully manage the rice mills than state governments.

He said farmers could be asked to give the government certain percentage of the income per annum and repay the capital over some years.

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