Dr Maji Alhassan, a Rice Seed System specialist with the AfricaRice organisation, has appealed to the Federal Government to provide rice production facilities to farmers across the country to boost harvest.
Alhassan made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja.
He said the provision of the facilities would encourage farmers to increase production in order to meet the rising demand for rice in the country.
Alhassan decried the sitaution where Nigeria was still producing at minimal capacity of between one point five to two tonnes of rice per hectare, adding that farmers in developed countries were currently producing six tonnes per hectare
“When I was young, I ate rice once in a year or maybe twice; but everybody now eats rice at least once or twice in a day.
“The demand is rising. Nigerian farmers need to sit up to meet that demand if we do not want to continue to flood our markets with foreign rice which probably have been kept for 20 years before they are brought here.
“Nigeria has the capacity, we have the ecology, we have the hands but the government also has to do something, better than what they are doing now; providing production facilities.
“Rice needs more water than any other crop and that is why irrigation ecologists are getting better yields.
“Averagely, Nigeria is still (at) within the margin of one point five to two tonnes per hectare; in some parts of the world, six tonnes are just minimal. We can get there too.
“The National output is still below two tonnes per hectare. Government needs to provide irrigation facilities in most of the rice producing parts of the country.
Cue out audio.
Alhassan advised rice farmers to always go for improved rice varieties and to apply good agronomic practices to improve their yields.
“Some varieties yield better than others. Most of the traditional varieties have disadvantages, they thrive for a longer time but they yield less.
“Their commercial value is low. We are telling farmers that they can do it better, use better variety, yield good source of seeds and apply agronomic practices that give you the best options.’’
AfricaRice is a leading pan-African rice research organisation committed to improve livelihoods in Africa through strong science and effective partnerships. (NAN)