The 32 metric-ton-per hour rice mill under construction at Imota in Lagos has reached 80 percent completion from 35 percent in May 2019, the state government has said, with construction expected to be finished before the end of the year.

When operational, the mill would ensure a steady supply of about 2.4 million freshly processed 50 kilograms bags of rice per annum, the state commissioner for agriculture Gbolahan Lawal said at a recent ministerial press briefing.

That output would greatly reduce the need to import rice from surrounding states and countries, solving to an extent the food supply needs of the state. “The increasing population in Lagos has put pressure on the State’s food security, supply mechanism, and available infrastructure, hence the need to prepare adequately to meet the challenges of upscaling food production cannot be over-emphasized,” Lawal said.

The rice mill also serves as a strategic project as regards unemployment, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has led to massive job losses. Upon completion, more than 250,000 jobs are expected to be created in both the upstream and downstream sectors of the rice value chain.

Local farmer groups in Lagos State and other nearby states will be integrated into the mill operations when it commences, Lawal said further. This is to ensure an adequate supply of paddy to the mill for smooth operations, as well as the provision of inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation facilities, where applicable, to the farmers.

“To meet the Paddy requirement of the Mill, we have undertaken a backward integration in the form of collaboration with other States like South-Western States, Kwara, Sokoto, Benue, Borno and Kebbi,” the commissioner said. “This will be done leveraging on the Anchor Borrower Scheme of the Central Bank of Nigeria with the Rice Mill as the off-taker of the products.”

In addition to benefiting small-scale farmers, for most of whom rice is an essential cash crop from which they get significant income, this will help to enhance food security in Nigeria’s commercial city, while the broader objective is to ensure that the state can produce “at least 25 percent of the food consumed by residents of the State before the end of year 2025,″ Lawal said.

More so, the state project keys into the broader national goal of the current administration to achieve self-sufficiency in the production and consumption of rice. Nigeria is the continent’s leading consumer of rice, one of the largest producers of rice in Africa and simultaneously one of the largest rice importers in the world. 

In 2015, the central bank of Nigeria banned the use of its foreign exchange to pay for rice imports and has supported loans of at least $130 million to help small-holders boost output. The regulator also placed a ban on rice imports across land borders, adding a hefty 70 percent tariffs on imports coming through ports.

The government last August then closed the country’s land borders altogether to stamp out rampant smuggling, often from neighboring Benin, with rice being one of the main targets. The measures saw Nigeria’s rice output go up to 4.9 million tonnes in 2019 – up 60 percent from 2013 – according to agricultural data firm Gro Intelligence, a notable achievement but still not enough to satisfy the 7 million tonnes of rice Nigerians consume yearly.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects imports of 2.4 million tonnes of rice for this year while an estimated 800,000 metric tons is suspected to enter the country illegally on an annual basis. In Lagos meanwhile, supermarket shelves remain stocked with several imported rice brands.

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