Ondo’s giant strides in rice production
By Adetokunbo Abiola
In 2014, the Ondo State Government wrote a letter that cassava was their comparative crop, but it was during supervision that it was realized that rice also grows well here.
Having realised that the State had fertile land for rice production aside from the focused cassava crop, the Fadama Additional Financing Project was set up to expand the production horizon of rice.
By 2017, Ondo State was yearly adding 50,000 metric tonnes of cassava and 1,500 metric tonnes of rice to the national food basket of the nation, whose importation figure stood at 2.3million tonnes.
Just after he assumed office, the State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, stated the commitment of his administration at repositioning the agriculture sector with the ultimate objective of ensuring food security and job creation.
The governor made this known in Akure during the presentation of N215 million cheques and distribution of agricultural inputs to farmers under the Fadama III Additional Financing initiative, explaining that the development would also transform lives and stimulate the economic space of the Sunshine State.
He said the development would create real wealth and people would be set free from the pangs of hunger and deprivation, and that he was convinced that there can be no real development in our clime if this very important sector was neglected.
“It is equally our opinion anchored on empirical evidence, that agriculture, practiced with a philosophy of self-reliance plays a pivotal role in the absorption of a considerable chunk of the vast army of the unemployed youths willing to participate in this realistic project,” he said.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that this scheme will create jobs. And because this is not the usual propaganda aimed at forcing a non-performing government into the consciousness of the people, we are bold to assert that before long, there will be food security in the state,” he said.
“This output can be increased, if only we are able to produce rice 2-3 times in a year, increase our productivity per hectare through more improved agronomic practices, in addition, to increase the number of project beneficiaries which today stands at about 5,000 farmers in the state”, he said.
With this, the administration pitched its support for the FADAMA III initiative, which is aimed at sustainably increasing the incomes of FADAMA users through ramping up of production of four value chain crops of rice, tomato, sorghum, and cassava initially in six core States which include Kano, Kogi, Niger, Lagos, Anambra and Enugu, but now, effective in twenty-six states including Ondo State having met the eligibility criteria.
To enhance the programme, the State government embarked on the construction of three Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprise, AEHE, Centres in Akure, Owo and Ore at a cost of N12. 9 million each, equipped by FADAMA with Agricultural machines, equipment, and tools.
However, the administration didn’t rely on the FADAMA project to boost rice production in the state. By April 2017, it also commenced a partnership with the Dangote Group of Companies on rice production, as the group had proposed to acquire 3,000 hectares of land in the state to cultivate the staple.
The company urged the state government to expedite action on the proposal so that work could commence on the project soon, stressing that the state had the potential to lead other states of the federation in rice production.
At a meeting with the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Adegboyega Adefarati, the General Manager, Dangote Industries Limited, Dr. Sani Dawop, said the 3,000-hectare rice farm would provide employment for about 6,000 youths in the state.
He added that the farm was expected to produce about 15,000 tonnes of rice annually, while 30 percent of the workers would be women.
Adefarati, who expressed delight at the proposal, said the government was ready to accept it and work with the firm.
According to him, the gesture was in tandem with the state government’s vision to use agriculture as a potent tool for job creation, increased food production, and poverty alleviation.
The commissioner also advocated the establishment of a rice processing industry where rice from the farm could be processed and packaged in the state so as to prevent capital flight.
The following month, the administration announced that one million tons of rice would be harvested before the end of 2018 in Ondo State.
The Executive Director of Africa Redcrest Nigeria, Mr Likan Brenner who made the disclosure at the groundbreaking ceremony of ‘Sunshine Rice’ factory at Igbaraoke, in Ifedore Council Area, assured that there will be mass rice production covering a thousand hectares that summer.
Needless to say, the Ondo State Government and Redcrest had been partnering towards increasing rice production in the state.
Brenner said the company had come to stay and ensured of large scale rice production with a target of 1000, hectares that summer, 3000 hectares in Christmas, 4000 hectares in 2019, and 6000 hectares more to serve the state and the nation at large.
He equally added that the company will generate huge employment to the people of the state and also boost the economic growth of the state.
Also a member of the company’s board, Prince Akinloye Aladenoye explained that they had put in place necessary structures to ensure smooth operations, as the project when fully in use will make the state the main producer of quality rice within the country.
On his part, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu maintained that the project would put an end to importation of rice for the state and nation at large.
The Governor revealed that the 12 billion naira project will be sited along the Owena Dam, because of the irrigation system, to guarantee an all-year planting for a bountiful harvest.
He commended the company for setting up such investment in the state and enjoined it to keep to its promise of ensuring that the product was available by December.
Governor Akeredolu further revealed that most states would soon face challenges of rice production as most rice milling companies in Thailand had folded up, hence the need for the rice project in Ondo State.
That same month, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu promised to assist rice farmers in Ondo State to enable them to have access to loans from the Central Bank of Nigeria to boost rice production.
Akeredolu made the disclosure while playing host to the management of Sunshine Rice Mill, Igbaraoke in his office and noted that the gesture would make the state self-sufficient in rice production.
The governor stressed that the project when completed would not only add economic value to the state but generate jobs to the teeming youths across the eighteen council areas.
He told the management of the rice mill to always come to him for necessary intervention, particularly on issues with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Akeredolu also assured the management of his commitment to providing the needed infrastructure that would strengthen their activities.
Earlier, the leader of the team, Mr Akeem Alade who explained that the essence of the visit was to update the governor on activities at the project site maintained that soon , the equipment for the 120 metric tons per day rice mill would arrive the country.
While explaining that no fewer than 250 rice farmers had been projected to explore the CBN, Agro Borrowers’ Scheme to scale up productions in rice farming to feed the mill, Alade expressed optimism that the estimated 3Tons of Rice from 500 hectares of land was achievable having experimented the projection at Ogbese in Akure North Local Government Area.
Alade commended the governor for his passion towards the success of the rice mill and assured him of their resolve to leave above expectations.
By September, the government added Lagos State to its list of partners, saying it would partner with the Lagos State Government on rice production.
The Commissioner for Agriculture in the state, Mr. Adegboyega Adefarati, made this known while inspecting Fadama 111 Additional Financing projects in Akure North Local Government Area of the state.
Adefarati said that the state government had secured over 4,000 hectares of land in Ogbese, Okitipupa, Ese-Odo, and Ilaje for rice production.
“The Lagos State Government, as she is doing with Kebbi State, is coming to Ondo State to partner with us on rice production,” he said
The commissioner said a Fadama-sponsored rice factory would be put in place to produce the state’s branded rice.
Inspecting the installation of the 14-ton per day rice mill funded by the Fadama project at Ogbese, Adefarati said farmers got support due to government’s intervention through prompt payment of counterpart contribution.
Adefarati, who also visited the 20-hectare cassava farm of Iju-Ifedapo cluster in Akure North Local Government Area, urged farmers to continue to support the administration to enjoy more dividends of good governance.
The commissioner assured farmers that the state government would soon enact enabling laws that would prevent incessant farmers-herders conflict in the state.
Mr. Ajewole Ajisafe, the Chairman of the Production Cluster at Ogbese, attributed the success recorded in farm operation to the peaceful and harmonious relationship between farmers and herdsmen.
Ajisafe said that herdsmen in the community had been operating in the area without conflicts, adding that this had been the recipe for a mutual relationship.
By January 2019, the Ondo State’s branded rice, Golden Sun, hit the market, after a little delay in processing. The state government intended to flood the market with a projection of 165,000 bags of ten kilogrammes rice.
The Senior Special Assistant to the State Governor on Agriculture and Agribusiness, Pastor Akin Olotu, said the production of the branded rice had earned the state a loan of N91 million from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to boost production.
The breed planted is called FARRO 44, a high-yielding variety that enables farmers to get seven to eight tonnes of rice per hectare, compared to other rice breeds where farmers get a maximum of 1.5 tonnes per hectare.
The rice is planted and processed here in the state, and it is low in sugar content, reducing the prevalence rate of diabetes, which is promoted by imported varieties high in sugar content.
Needless to say, the state government’s initiative is aimed at boosting the federal government’s efforts at increasing food production and reducing the billions of naira expended on rice importation.
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