In a bid to arrest the downward slide in cost of rice paddy in the state owing to what has been termed a ‘super harvest’ by Alhaji Mohammed Sahabi Auzi, the State Chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), the Kebbi State Government has revealed that it has plans to buy about 10,000 metric tons of rice paddy from its farmers across the state.
Explaining the rationale for the decision in an interview with AgroNigeria in Birnin Kebbi, Alhaji Garba Mohammed Dandiga, a former commissioner for agriculture in the state who now heads the agriculture component of the Kebbi Subsidy Re-Investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), disclosed that the state’s rice farmers had “produced double their harvest size of the previous year and as such, Kebbi is facing a near-glut situation”. In the light of this, “it has become imperative” Dandiga volunteered, “for the state government to intervene by buying the paddy at a cost of N6, 500 per 75kg bag”.
Dandiga fingered the policy initiatives of the Federal Government’s Rice Value Chain Transformation Agenda which implemented an effective dry season paddy production programme for the 2013-14, as the main contributor to the spike in farm gate availability of rice in the state. He stated that the state government is compelled to intervene in order to provide a palliative for its farmers, “we need to give them a guaranteed minimum price so as to ensure that they are not left at the mercy of middlemen”.
According to Dandiga, the state had undertaken a similar measure last year when it bought some 7,500 metric tons of paddy from farmers. “The positive outcome of that intervention has buoyed us into repeating it this year but at an expanded level” he volunteered while adding that the 10,000 bags is an initial phase and could be repeated depending on the overall impact assessment.
Speaking on the operational details of the project, Dandiga said that plans had been perfected to establish ‘commodity buying centres’ in 15 locations across the state, including Birnin Kebbi, Jega, Kamba, Suru, Dakingari, Bagudo, Ilo, Warra, Yauri, Shanga and Zuru. The SURE-P Trust Fund Administrator also revealed that the state recently carried out a successful buyback programme for wheat produced by its farmers during the 2013/2014 dry season.
To drive home the point, AgroNigeria was conducted through 3 of the 13 towns to host the rice paddy purchase programme by Alhaji Mohammed Sahabi Auzi, the Kebbi State Rifan chairman. The findings at the 3 locations confirm the concerns of the Kebbi state government and justify its decision to urgently off-take the paddy produced.
On arrival in Suru, the entire town was awash with rice paddy. Taking the Team through the streets, RIFAN Chairman of Suru, Alhaji Danjuma Suru pointed out that the harvest was so bountiful that virtually every house in the town had rooms converted to paddy stores. “Even my poultry and fisheries facility have been converted to rice paddy stores for our members who do not have space to keep their own paddy”, Alhaji Suru reiterated. For Murtala Garba Suru, a 30-year old rice farmer, the switch is from a patent medicine store to a paddy one. “The extent of my harvest made me convert my medicine store into a rice paddy store because it is more lucrative to farm rice” he said, while answering questions posed by AgroNigeria’s Editor-in-Chief.
Tukur Suru could not agree more with Murtala about the viability of the rice farming business, having made a whopping ₦1.5m from sale of his produce last year. “I used my kaftan to carry the whole money and my friends were laughing at me” he confessed with a satisfied grin on his face, while revealing that he has made about the same amount from initial sale of his paddy already but still retained a considerable leftover which, according to him, “I cannot sell at a ridiculous price, so I have decided to store it in my rooms, till the price improves”.
In Jega, the Team was confronted with a different twist as petrol stations were converted to ‘holding points’ for rice paddy. According to Mallam Garba Danmahanta, a Jega-based owner of a rice farm, “my house and store are filled with paddy, so I decided to bring the remainder to this filling station”. Danmahanta called on the state and federal governments to assist them in buying off the paddy, stating that the prices being offered by middlemen was not in any way favourable to farmers.
When the tour party reached Argungu, it became clear that despite the city’s more renowned fishing festival reputation, it is wholly dedicated to rice cultivation. To quote Alhaji Abdullahi Saidu Argungu a.k.a ‘Maigandu’, “in Argungu, rice farming is a way of life”. Himself a proficient rice farmer and co-ordinator of the rice outgrower scheme of Dawa Seed Company, Argungu stated that the local rice production business has attained a dramatic level of profitability in the last two years and attributed this to what he termed, ‘the competent and scientific leadership of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina”. Pointing to the stockpile of about 10,000 bags of paddy turned in for the seed multiplication programme, Argungu boasted, “I can give you this everyday for the next two months”.
Supporting this view, Kevin Tekpat, Kebbi State Director of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, pointed out that the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme introduced by the Federal Government had gained firm footing in Kebbi State. “We enjoy maximum support from the Kebbi state government and the farmers are reaping the benefits as exemplified by the enormity of their harvest”, he said, adding that the Agriculture Minister had charged them to pay particular attention to the rice value chain in the state. In Tekpat’s words,” that is exactly what we are doing. The results are glaring and anybody saying the contrary is not being sincere”.