The All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) says it has started planting of rice in its 50 hectares of land in Itoikin rice plantation to revolutionise rice production in the country.
Dr Femi Oke, the Chairman, AFAN said this during the inspection and planting of rice seedlings in the AFAN’s plantation in Itoikin area of Lagos State.
Oke said the association had so far planted 30 hectares of rice out of the 50 hectares in Itoikin, adding that all things being equal, the rice should be harvested in the next three to four months.
He said the association would major more on rice and maize production during the farming season this year.
He said the Itoikin farm had been earmarked for rice, while the Igbonla farm in Epe would be used for maize cultivation.
Oke urged Nigerians to also key into the rice production revolution by investing in any of the opportunities presented from farming, haulage, distribution, marketing, sack and production and processing.
According to him, AFAN decided to have some hectares of land to plant rice after the border closure and before the COVID-19 pandemic that was never expected arise.
“The association has acquired about 200 hectares, 50 hectares of in Itoikin-Epe and over 100 hectares in Igbonla, Epe.
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“We are happy about this because the area we got in Itoikin is mechanised and tractors can easily be used, while the other land we have in Igbonla area is manual labour.
“We have been able to plant about 30 hectares now because of the rain and this is our farming period.
“We are completing the 50 hectares now for our rice plantation to complement the efforts of the government.
“We heard that the Lagos State government is constructing a 32 metric tonne per hour rice in Imota, very soon, it will be completed this year.
“This paddy from our rice plantation can be given to them,” he said.
Oke said the association was trying to do its part to the best of their abilities to supply the government with the rice paddy.
He said the mentality of some people than before the border closure was that all they wanted was foreign rice but the narrative was now changing.
“We are very happy that as at the time the border closure came on board, before the coronavirus pandemic, which we never expected, it has given us a very huge success.
“Many people no longer think about foreign rice anymore, it is the local rice that we are cultivated that people eating everywhere.
“We just want more people to come into rice production because it is a very huge investment. We still need more investors in rice production.
“Rice is a stable food that everybody consumed in Nigeria. An average family of four consume rice every day, so you can never miss it with rice investment.
“It is a kind of commodity that if you invest in it, you will never lose. It has brought joy to an association like AFAN and we are investing in it,” he said.
Oke listed labour, seeds, lack of mechanisation and farm tools and equipment as some of the challenges confronting smallholder farmers in the country.
“Mechanisation, use of tractors, bulldozers and other equipment to open up the land is a major problem too.
“We want government to come to our aid in the area of mechanisation; we want a bulldozer to be under the care of AFAN, even if is going to be under the public, private partnership, we wouldn’t mind.
“Without mechanisation, farmers run at a loss because manual labour is expensive and time-consuming. Mechanisation make the job easy for us.
“Seeds is another major problem, the seeds we are using, though the government is carrying out research to get us better seed.
“A good seed will give you more yields and more yields means you have more profit,” he added.
Mr Sakin Agbayewa, the Deputy Chairman, AFAN said the association had keyed into the rice production to make the country self-reliant and self-sufficient.
Agbayewa, also the Chairman, Rice commodity in AFAN said the Federal Government had localised rice production with the continuous closure of the nation’s land borders and urged farmers to take advantage of it and fill the gap.
He said about 150 smallholder farmers under AFAN that had invested in the rice plantation.
“We are here to key into the rice revolution because we need to be self-reliance as regards rice.
“You and I could recall that about a year ago, there was a border closure, stopping of importation of rice into the country and rice gap by the Federal Government and we need to fill the gap.
“Keying into the rice production is an economic boost for us, apart from the farmers, the haulage, printing, sacks distributors and marketers will all be empowered.
“Rice production is a huge investment and as AFAN the umbrella body of farmers, we sat down to see how we can key into it. So, the resolution means we should go into rice production.
“What you are seeing here today is the aspect of AFAN keying into the rice production.
“We want to show the world that after securing those lands, the next stage is the clearing, harrowing and ploughing which we have done. What we are doing now is planting of the rice,” he said.
A farmer, Mr Tunde Adeyemi said the seedling planted on the farm is called ‘Nerica 7’, a series of the Nerica seedlings varieties and with more yields.
He said the Itoikin land was a mixed land, “low and up and is good for rice cultivation’’ adding that another rice would be planted during the August break.
“The rice from this plantation is going to be very good and tasty. This is a variety of rice that does not break or clot together while being cooked.