By Abolaji Adebayo
In order to enable the Nigerian farmers to produce international standard rice that could compete favourably in the global market, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) on Tuesday distributed rice processing equipment worth N8.6 million to five women farmer groups in Niger.
This gesture, according to the agency, was also a step towards ensuring food security in the country as many of the imported food items were said to pose hazard constitute health hazards.
The agency added that the equipment empowerment was to promote locally made farm products and do away with importation to promote the nation’s economy.
While distributing the equipment to the farmers in Minna on Tuesday, the State Programme Coordinator, IFAD-VCDP, Dr. Mathew Ahmed, said the measure would go a long way in creating jobs.
According to him, it would also ensure that local rice farmers produce the crop in line with international best practices.
“We are here today to distribute rice processing machines to our farmers to enable them produce rice that will compete favourably with the foreign rice.
“Many of the foreign rice we eat today in Nigeria are not better than our local rice because they are expired but our local rice is fresh. Some of the foreign rice we eat constitute health hazards, hence the need for VCDP to ensure food security,’’ he said.
The equipment distributed included five rice de-stoners, 10 rice par boilers, and 46 manual sprayers.
The coordinator promised that IFAD-VCDP would subsidize the cost of the equipment, adding that the groups selected from the five participating local government areas in the VCDP applied for the equipment.
The local governments included Bida, Wushishi, Kontagora, Shiroro and Katcha.
He hinted that aside training the farmers in mechanized farming in the value chain, they were also trained in using first-bottom approach to parboil rice.
Ahmed said that IFAD has been working with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to make sure that the farmers adhere to international best practices that would make their products acceptable across the globe.
He explained that there were 13,000 farmers participating in rice and cassava value chain in the state.
In her remarks, Dr. Amina Bello, wife of the state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bello, commended IFAD-VCDP on the initiative, saying that it had added value to the state’s agriculture drive.
Bello, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Niger State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Kaltume Rufai, urged the beneficiaries to utilize the equipment to ensure success of the programme.
Responding on behalf of one of the beneficiary groups, the Chairman, Nufawamasu Gumi Rice Producers Association, Bida, Hadiza Yunusa, disclosed that before the intervention of IFAD-VCDP the colour of their rice was not attractive and contained impurities.
Yunusa said that the VCDP had trained them on modern ways of cultivating, processing and marketing rice.
“Now we sell our rice and cassava to other West African countries, our customers even book in advance,’’ she said.