Nigeria: Group announces $2.2m rice farming investment

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Note from the editors: Wems Agro Companies Limited is pursuing its rice project in Ondo State "in partnership with Chinese farmers". The company says it has secured 25,000 hectares of arable land in Akotogbo town, Irele local government area of Ondo state, Nigeria through a "Memorandum of Understanding/ Agreement on the use of the lands executed between Wems and Land-Owners; a group of five prominent families of Akotogbo, duly represented by their heads of family." A company report on the project is available here

Representatives of Wems Agro Companies Ltd and their Chinese counterparts on a visit to the site of the rice project in Ondo State, Nigeria.
This Day | 16 September 2014

Group announces $2.2m rice farming investment

by Crusoe Osagie

A specialised agribusiness service provider, WEMS Agro Companies Limited, has announced plans to invest about $2.2 million into rice cultivation ‎in the country.

Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, WEMS Agro Companies Limited, Mr. Rotimi Akinsola, ‎explained that the investment is aimed at boosting rice production in the country and to make Nigeria self-sufficient for the commodity.

Akinsola, while addressing journalists, said Nigeria has not done much to have more of its basic food available and affordable in the country, maintaining that the nation has all it takes to produce food crops to meet the demands of its ever growing population.

"Nigeria has vast arable lands and lots of water to plant rice.‎ This present administration understands that if we import rice the way we do, we are going to bankrupt any time soon," he said.

"With the Agriculture Transformation Agenda (ATA), we felt the time to move in is now in order to take advantage of what is on ground.‎

Nigeria currently consumes about 22.5 million bags of rice every month and we do not produce 15 per cent of that," he added.

He said the company also has plans to inject about 3300 megawatts of electricity into the national grid using rice husks and straws which he said, has the capacity to produce about 4300 megawatts of electricity.

He stated that the 25,000 hectares farm located in Akotogbo, Ondo State, will provide job opportunities for about 2500 people in the community thereby reducing the huge unemployment situation in the community.‎

"We intend to be in this community to grow rice for a very long time. We also have plans to expand our capacity.‎ We are the second indigenous farm after Dangote trying to carry out this kind of project. We are ready to go and by March, we will start planting with all conditions met with our partners in Ondo State‎," he said.

Also speaking at ‎the event, the Chief Operating Officer and Technical Partner, WEMS Agro Companies Limited, Mr. Henry Bagenal, stated that according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports, Nigeria will import about 6.1 million tonnes of rice and produce about 2.8 million tonnes this year.

He noted that growing rice takes a lot of inputs, water, fertilizers and lots of labour pointing out that the drive in growing rice globally ‎in the last 15 years, has being to increase the sustainability of growing the commodity.

"There is a grass root development to produce rice called the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) developed in Madagascar by a French monk. He observed that rice grows much better on the headlands; the system is now recognised all over South East Asia where rice is grown," he said.

He stressed that the beauty of SRI is its ability to be adopted by different countries, adding that his passion is to help Africa to grow crops sustainably with less inputs.
"Africa has been told for many years that for the continent to grow crops, it has to add lots of inputs. This is a legitimate way to grow crops but if you can get the same yields with less input, it is a winner for the country because the food is grown at a cheaper rate, and the country will have no reason to import fertilizers," he said.
Bagenal stressed that the SRI system cuts input cost by 25 per cent and increases productivity by 30 per cent.

"If you multiply those two up, the financial benefits are enormous. We are proposing to marry two systems together by growing rice with SRI methodology and also do a crop rotation between rice and legumes," he added. "The crop rotation will be two seasons of rice and two seasons of legumes. We will be growing legumes as green manure meaning that, we will grow and plough it back in to get about 250 kilogrammes of nitrogen per annum‎ from the legume crop," he stated.

According to him, rice requires about 150 kilogrammes of nitrogen a year to grow, sustain and gain good commercial yields, saying that the potential of SRI for Africa is enormous.

Managing Director, WEMS Agro Companies Limited, Mr. Joseph Nwadukwe, said the greatest challenge affecting rice farming in the country is getting adequate land to plant rice.
"If you go through the National Rice Development Strategy set up by the rice producing nations, you will find out the most challenging factor affecting rice cultivation is land," Nwadukwe said.

In his words, "For you to plant rice, you must have about 1,000 hectares and above and securing that kind of farmland in Nigeria is not easy. The only way out was to engage communities with such land mass and Akotogbo was one of those communities."

He however advised states governments to facilitate land documents and embrace Public Private Partnerships (PPP), pointing out that it is the surest way to address issues bothering around land for farming.
Original source: This Day
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