Commissioner of Agric Urges South-West to Return to Agriculture
The Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Abisola Olusanya, has called on Nigerians living in the South-West states to wake up and get back into agriculture as a full-time business by operating commercial size farms.
Olusanya, during an interview with newsmen, said the south is so dependent on the north for food, adding that it was about time they commenced full-time agribusinesses.
She said, “The westerners, South-West need to wake up, we have to get back into agriculture as a full-time business. We have to go into commercial size agriculture not small old farm agriculture that we are doing that we are really not seeing the impact.”
“In the north, they do commercial size farms and they own commercial size farms; down here in the south, we are not doing so much of that and that one needs to change. Rice price is a function of food generally and security issues in the north.”
Also, the commissioner assured that the Lagos State Government would inaugurate its 32-metric tons per hour Rice Mill in Imota, Ikorodu division, in 10 weeks time.
She noted that the contractors have started testing running the mill, adding that the Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on rice, Dr Rotimi Fashola, would ensure its completion by July.
Her words: “We are commissioning by June/July or the end of July. Within the next 10 weeks, that place will be ready for commissioning. The special adviser is working towards that and they were still there on Saturday and they have started test running. “Paddy is already there. We have rice paddy. Thousands of tons are there. I can’t ascertain the figure but what I know is that the silos are being filled right now with paddy. They are already testing the equipment. Anybody is free to go to Imota, you will see that within the next 10 weeks that place will be ready for commissioning,” she added.
Asked whether the mill ,when operational, would crash the increasing cost of rice in Nigeria, the commissioner said such could only occur if the government was in full control of production, processing and marketing. She pointed out that although getting the paddy at a cheaper price might crash the price, the security challenge in parts of the north poses a great problem.
Explaining, Olusanya said, “You expect a crash when you are also controlling the value chain from the production itself up to processing and marketing; then you are in full control. Right now, we are just in the processing part which is the middle labour.”
“If the price at which paddy is being procured is not low enough to crash it, except you’re asking for a subsidy which is not sustainable. Subsidy is not a sustainable route to go, so the best thing is getting the paddy at a cheaper price.”
“Which means that back in the north, how suitable is the environment for them to actually cultivate and grow rice. Right now, there are a lot of issues in the north which border around banditry and all of those things, it is going to affect a lot of people that can actually farm which affect the available quantity of paddy.”
“If there is a scarcity of paddy itself as raw material, prices will skyrocket. So, it is not just about the price of rice going up, it is a function of security. If the farmers don’t feel secure up north, you have more of them coming down south to do other things. It means you have fewer farmers, you have less paddy, and it means the little that is available will attract higher prices, ” she said.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the Imota rice mill has 16 silos with a combined capacity of 40,000 metric tons, and a capacity to produce 2.8 million bags of 50kg rice annually, while generating 1,500 direct jobs and 254,000 indirect jobs.