Local production of rice, one of the most popular diet of many Nigerians, has been on the increase since 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to limit the amount of foreign exchange issued out for the importation of some food items, including rice.
The impact was felt by all Nigerians as the price of the commodity skyrocketed.
Although, pricing has stabilized relatively as a result of increase in local production and the opening of the border with neighbouring countries, the demand for rice amongst Nigerians have not abated.
Lagos state, with its rapidly expansion in population, currently estimated at 22 million, accounts for the largest consumption of rice in the Country.
The State has been working on target to deliver a 32 tones per hour rice mill before December this year to meet up with the demand for rice consumption and ensure food security and food sustainability plans.
With its rapidly growing Urban population, the Lagos State government embarked on the expansion of its 22,000 metric tonnes rice mill in Imota, one of the agrarian communities in the Ikorodu axis of the State, scaling it up into a 32 tonnes per hour mill with complementary facilities including two warehouses, 16 silos with a storage capacity of 40 metric tonnes each, water treatment plant, effluent processing plant, firefighting facility, administration block amongst other on a twenty-two thousand hectares of land, with the mill itself occupying eight-point-five hectares.
Having been hindered from its vision of delivering the Rice Mill last year by the COVID-19 lockdown and its accompanying economic downturn from completing the project last year, the State government has announced that the Mill already being touted as the largest in Nigeria and 4th largest in the World, is currently at 85 percent completion and would become operational before December this year.
According to the State Commissoner for Agriculture, Ms Abisola Olusanya, when completed, the Imota rice mill would churn out two point four millions 50kg bags of rice annually, create 250 thousand new jobs not just for Lagos residents, but also for those in other States of the Country, across the Agricultural value chains; from paddy aggregation to processing, storage, marketing and final consumption.
To prevent the underutilization of the integrated rice milling facility, Ms Olusanya said Lagos is partnering other States particularly in the South-West and North-Eastern parts of the country on the supply of rice paddy.
She said “We are all working towards one Nigeria, with regards to the tenure of contracts, so long as we need rice paddies, such partnerships and more would be enduring”
Previous contract with Kebbi on Lake rice
Ms Olusanya said that Lagos is now treating Agriculture as a combination of business and development platform by focusing on its areas of comparative advantage, and that the State had not jettisoned the contract signed with Kebbi State in 2016 on the production of LAKE rice.
She said that contract had been reviewed, as Kebbi would be among the supplier of rice paddy for milling and packaging in Lagos, while private rice producers would also be given opportunities to mill and package other brands of rice in different sizes at the mill.
COST and SUSTAINABILITY
At 85 percent completion, the Rice Mill has already gulped twenty billion naira, with the Commissioner attributing the huge cost to the difference in exchange rate at the time of conception and present realities.
Ms Olusanya said a standard operating model has been developed, while the mill would be managed by a renowned consultancy firm to ensure overall accountability and sustainability.
“We don’t want it to be another white elephant project, which is why we have taken out time to develop the adequate business model, the management model and also to do the financial analysis around how and how soon we can recoup our investment, so, I want to assure all Lagosians that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is doing all he can to ensure that this project is successful, this mill is actually going to be a wealth generator and a job generator with the partnership of everyone in this locality, in Lagos and in Nigeria as a whole, we’ll start reaching our food security status goal” Olusanya maintained.
The Lagos State House of Assembly has an oversight function on proper utilization of the budget for the expansion of the Rice Mill, Radio Nigeria engaged the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Mr. Kehinde Joseph on the money spent and the likely success of the mill when completed.
Mr Joseph who said the infrastructure on ground was commensurate to the funds expended assured residents of Lagos and Nigerians that the rice mill would be a game changer.
Mr Kehinde Joseph explained that another Committee in the House is also monitoring the execution of complimentary road Infrastructure and other projects around the Imota and Ikorodu axis to ensure that in solving the food need of the masses, unnecessary traffic gridlocks and other issues often thrown up by development do not hamper people living in the axis.
The National Vice President, South-West, Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria, Mr. Segun Atho who said that farmers in the State are looking forward to the completion of the Imota rice mill which would be capable of generating about 60 billion naira annually, emphasised that it would boost the economy of the farmers, Lagos and Nigeria in general.
“We are not just going to be a consuming State, but we are going to be a producing State, working together to make sure that the Milling machine is working at 100 percent capacity, that also will attract more youths into rice sub-sector of Nigerian agriculture” He said.
The farmer expressed confidence that when the Imota rice mill becomes operational, Lagos would be able to process rice to feed not just its residents alone, but other States in the Country and export to neighboring African Countries.
He said already, rice farmers in Lagos who have been trained and empowered by the State government to work in the mill when it becomes operational.