The Lagos State Government (LASG) has empowered no fewer than 800 rice farmers in the state with preferred high yielding Farrow 44 seeds, new high quality knapsack sprayers, rain boots and farm coats.
The State Acting Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Abisola Olusanya, presented the tools to the farmers at the opening ceremony of a three-day sensitisation, capacity building and empowerment programme on Tuesday in Araga, Epe.
Olusanya said that the empowerment was also geared toward ensuring sustainable supply of paddy by the farmers, bearing in mind the imminent completion of the state-owned Imota Rice Mill project.
She said that the training was necessary to bridge the rice demand deficit of the state and the Federal Government’s current ban on importation of rice.
According to her, the training is to expose farmers to current production practices in the rice value chain and that the state government’s intervention was also informed by the need to boost rice farming.
“It is expected that if these techniques are adopted by the farmers in the next planting season, it will result in an increase in paddy production to an expected average yield of four tonnes per harvest,” she said.
The Acting Commissioner explained that the capacity building and training was expected to give participants the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in modern and improved rice farming techniques.
She noted that the training would also expose the farmers to efficient harvesting methods by using the most up-to-date agricultural practices to ensure maximum output, improved yield and derive maximum return on investment.
“Because the government has limited agricultural cultivable land area and with the increasing rate of small and large scale rice mills across the nation, there is a strain on the state getting constant supply of paddy to feed the mill when it becomes fully operational.
“It is to this end that the Ministry of Agriculture has embarked on sensitising rice farmers to train and disseminate the current production practices and empowerment geared toward sustainable supply of paddy,” Olusanya said.
She noted that the 32 metric tonnes per hour rice mill at Imota was nearing completion, stressing that at full capacity, it would produce 115,200 metric tonnes of milled rice which required about 280,000 metric tonnes of paddy per year.
She said hence the need to stock enough paddy to ensure a smooth take off of the mill.
”This is an important component of making Lagos State a 21st century economy in which agriculture and food security have critical roles to play.
”The commitment of the government is to construct the 32 metric tons per hour rice mill at Imota, to bridge the rice demand deficit; especially; due to the current ban on importation of rice into the country,” she said.
The Acting Commissioner also said that the training would take place in 20 locations that would cut across: Ikorodu, Epe, Badagry, Gboyinbo, Idena, Obada, Itoikin, and Ise for the next three-weeks.
She said that farmers would be trained on global best practices and in the most effective ways to grow their rice.
“We will be monitoring the farmers to see how their yields improve, then take the training forward while also empowering them on land clearing, tractorisation and swam buggies which we will be able to provide for them.
“The rice will be very healthy. A lot of what we import is over-processed and what we end up getting is the white rice, which means that the bran is completely off which is the most proteineous part of the rice grain.
“What we are going to be producing here is local rice but it is going to be of very high quality and that is why we will be getting the improved seedlings from the IITA,” Olusanya said.
In his remark, Mr Segun Atho, the National Deputy President of Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria, commended the state government for the training and, especially, on rice farming.
Atho noted that the capacity building would go a long way in providing the needed paddy for rice production while simultaneously improving the economic status of rice farmers in the state.
Another farmer, Mr Micheal Ojo, said that rice farmers are ready to partner the state government to increase production.
Ojo urged the government to provide more tools such as tractor and other mechanised tools to assist rice farmers.