He said the benefits that have accrued to rice farmers in the provision of improved seedling, farm input and extension services have led to the increase of yield per hectare from 2.5 to between 10 and 11 metric tonnes.
“The difference between then and now is the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme because with the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, the average farmer today is assisted in terms of input, agronomic practices and seedling.
“So this system has now taken the burden off the farmer and given him what he normally would have gone out to buy or procure. But the important thing is that from 2.5 metric tonnes to 10 to 11 metric tonnes within the same space, I think is a new revolution,” Alhaji Mohammed said.
He said with 32 states currently covered by the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, the Federal Government is determined to turn Nigeria into a net exporter of rice in the not distant future.
“Two years ago, Nigeria used to import 644,000 metric tonnes of rice from Thailand. Today, we import less than 20,000 metric tonnes. But I think the most important thing for us in Nigeria is to see that officially we have been able to eliminate over 90% of rice importation into Nigeria,” the Minister said.
He said that a new pilot scheme that targets the cultivation of 200,000 hectares of rice has taken off with 31,000 farmers being empowered by the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
Alhaji Mohammed said under the new programme, each hectare of land will employ 25 people, thereby creating about 5 million jobs.
He said that already, the Federal Government has grown the number of rice farmers from 5 million two years ago to over 12 million currently.
The Minister, who hailed the ingenuity of rice farmers in Kebbi State in sourcing water by sinking wells to ensure all-year-round farming, said the government will continue to support them to excel.
He also commended the synergy between the Federal and State Governments in rice farming, and disclosed that the Federal Government plans to embark on an aggressive advocacy for Nigerians to know the benefits of consuming locally-produced rice.
“The rice in Nigerian is safer, more nutritious and healthier than the one being imported. The one being imported has been stored for several years, perhaps in very bad condition and it is not safe to consume,”
The Kebbi State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Garba Mohammed, conducted the Minister and his entourage round several rice farms and a rice mill in Jega.
He said the drive for self-sufficiency in rice has caused three rice mills to spring up in Jega alone.
The Commissioner said that in addition, a German non-governmental organisation has trained 5,000 women in modern rice processing in Kebbi State.