Because of the boom, its capacity to produce rice in millions of tons and the desire of the farmer to cultivate large rice fields, it is the expectation in many quarters that rice should be cheaper in Kebbi State. Ironically, the price of rice is higher in Kebbi than other rice producing states in the country.
Reasons: Rice production in Kebbi State is virtually done during the dry season. To achieve high yield, the farmers must use water pumping machines powered by petrol to pump water for several hectares of rice fields. Unlike other states, Kebbi has no dam for irrigation farming, so for its farmers to remain in the rice business they must buy fuel on a daily basis to pump water into their rice farms.
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Other factors which make Kebbi rice costlier are the competition among those who come to buy the commodity in the state and the breakthrough it has recorded in rice production in the country. The state has become a haven for millers across the country and even from some parts of West Africa. Because of these, the farmers have jacked the price of paddy up.
The chairman of the Rice Farmers Association in Kebbi State, Alhaji Sahabi Augie, in an exclusive interview with our correspondent said, “We were buying fuel at the rate of N145 per litre, but given the recent fuel situation, it rose to N220 per litre. With this type of situation, you can imagine the situation of a farmer with about five hectares of rice field and he must buy up to 20 litres every day for three months to power his pumping machine to water the farm.
“This is one of the reasons why our rice is more expensive than that produced in other states. Some states have dams and they irrigate by gravity. But here, we have to spend more money in buying fuel to power the water pumps to produce our rice. Given this scenario, there is no how it will not affect our cost of production, and consequently, the price of the rice.
“Also, with this situation, the number of hectares a farmer can cultivate will be reduced, and this would result in low output and scarcity of the commodity in the market.”
Augie added that the competition among the buyers of rice in the state and the breakthrough it has recorded in rice production had made it a centre for millers across the country and some neighbouring countries.
“We have two large rice mills in Kebbi State, Labana and WACOT rice mills. Labana has the capacity to produce 220,000 tons per annum and WACOT 120,000 metric tons annually and 400 metric tons of rice daily. We also have rice companies coming from Niger and Kano states. We also have local millers coming from Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara, Ebonyi, Abia and others. This has created competition among rice buyers in Kebbi.
“Another issue is that the important tool a farmer uses to produce rice, after land and seed, is water. We have to buy fertilizers two or three times in a circle, but as far as water is concerned, it is a daily activity and we need the pumping machines powered with petrol to pump water to the farms.
“So, whether he is a small scale or medium scale farmer, his cost of production keeps on escalating. To produce rice in the rainy season is risky because the yield will depend on the character of the rain circle. The longer the period of rainfall the better your yield.
“Last year, there was a sudden cessation of rain and there was serious flood occasioned by the over-flooding of the two rivers – River Niger and River Rima – around our farms. Some rice farms were over-flooded and destroyed. Because of this some farmers lost everything. Many only escaped with less than half of what they expected to harvest.
“In other cases, just as rice was about reaching harvesting stage, there was cessation of rain which the rice needed to take to the final growth stage. That was responsible for some of the low yields farmers suffered last year.
“Despite all these, farmers here buy their inputs. We need subsidy in terms of fertilizers and others. There is need for government to come in and address the issue of inputs. If we buy at market price we must increase the price of our rice. For now, a 75kg bag of paddy is being sold at the rate of N9,000 to N9,500 in the state, depending on the quality. The finished rice is sold at the rate of N13,000.”
The Kebbi State Rice Farmers Association chairman concluded that rice has become a serious business in the state. “Many people, civil servants, businessmen and contractors are returning to the farms now because of the success that farmers in Kebbi have recorded in rice farming since the flag-off of the Anchor Borrowers programme.
“Luckily, there is a large enough market for the commodity. The buyers go as far as the farms to buy the produce. In Kebbi State, we have farmers who have 20 and even 200 hectares of rice fields. I know of a lady who was hawking medicine, now she is into farming. She told me that during the last dry season she made up to N2 million,” Augie explained.