Monday, August 8, 2022

Abuja Rice Pyramid: An account of beneficiary of Buhari’s agric revolution, by Aminu Ahmed

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The fact that about 70 percent of the Nigerian population is employed in the agriculture sector, it is therefore only logically strategic for the government to lay emphasis on the economic growth of the sector. It is also a fact that agriculture is an engine of economic growth hence justifying the Central Bank’s huge investment in the sector.

The CBN’s numerous intervention programmes across the value chain of about 21 commodities are what brought about the increase in productivity as well as the development of the agriculture value chain in the last 5 years.

The success story of Tiamin Rice is indeed a testimony to the reinvigorated functional agricultural system in Nigeria; thanks to the commitment and initiatives of the Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele and his team.

The Central Bank’s intervention which is being driven by the development finance policy of the apex bank is stirred by the recognition of the critical role that agriculture plays in economic growth and development. These includes: supply of food to the population; supply of raw materials for the non-agricultural sector; provision of employment; provision of investible surplus in the form of savings and taxes; and also, foreign exchange earnings through export. This is what accentuates the importance of agriculture to the economic growth of Nigeria and hence the need for increased investment in the sector by the CBN.

Data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows in the last five years Nigeria has produced more rice than at any other time since the return of democracy in 1999. The FAO data shows that between 2014 and 2019, Nigeria maintained top spot among rice producers in Africa, averaging 7 million metric tonnes. This alone is an indication and a proof that we are on the right trajectory towards attaining self-sufficiency in rice production in Nigeria. It is on record that the above efforts have helped to increase the contribution of the Agric sector to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to data from the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Agric sector contribution to GDP rose to 22.35% in first quarter of 2021, from 19.79% in 2015. Thus far a total of 2.9 million farmers have benefited from the ABP covering 3.6 million hectares of land cultivating 21 agricultural commodities.

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Before 2015, we had about 13-15 standard rice mills in Nigeria. After the launch of the ABP, the hectares of land being cultivated for rice doubled by over 200 per cent, which attracted more investors and currently we have over 50 standard rice mills in the country. From 2015 to 2020 no fewer than 250 micro, small, medium and large integrated rice mills have emerged across the country, while a lot of existing rice mills are upgrading their capacities. Yet again, Tiamin Rice is a testament to this fact.

As for the high price of rice in our markets which seems to have defied the laws of demand and supply despite increase in production. It should be noted that global food prices have hit the highest level in over a decade rising by more than 30% in the last year, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Therefore, increase in prices is not exclusive to Nigeria alone; prices of all other food items the world over has increased with about 30% in 2021.

OUR TESTIMONY

In 2016 our company decided to invest in agro-allied by establishing a 320 metric tonnes daily capacity integrated rice mill in Kano. Within a span of 4 years; we have benefitted from the Paddy Aggregation Scheme (PAS) and 2 other intervention programmes of the CBN, and have successfully paid up these loan facilities. Furthermore, within a span of 3 years from proceeds of our rice produce we were able to expand the capacity of our production with a brand new 600 metric tonnes daily capacity integrated rice mill in Bauchi State. Without the CBN intervention schemes, Tiamin would not be what it is today.

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Only recently yet again, under the CBN’s intervention scheme we secured funding for our 10,000-hectare Irrigation Farm in Udubo in Gamawa LGA of Bauchi State, under the Private Sector-Led Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme (P-AADS) in order to boost private sector staple food production, industrial raw materials and support food security, job creation and economic diversification. Clearing and leveling works on the 10,000 hectare farm have reached advanced stage. Cultivating the farm will translate into the production of about 75, 000 metric tonnes of paddy. This by extension will increase the total production capacity of paddy in the country by 1.78%. As beneficiaries of the numerous intervention schemes of the CBN, in a couple of months from now, we will be able to improve the annual capacity of our factories to 331,200 metric tonnes. This makes our company to be the single largest rice mill in the whole of Nigeria. This is all due to the CBN intervention scheme.

Our two rice mills when fully operational, will offer direct employment to over 600 permanent and 900 casual workers. While the 10,000 hectare Udubo farm is projected to employ about 1,000 direct employees with over 100,000 persons who will eke out a living along the rice value chain of our rice mill and our 10,000 hectare Irrigation farm in Udubo, Bauchi State.

Meanwhile, as part of our corporate social responsibility, Tiamin Rice Limited has spent 450 million naira in building a new hospital for the police in Kano, two model primary schools in Bauchi State. The Sarauniyar Bauchi Model Primary School, Zabi and a primary school located in our farm for the neighbouring Fulani villages within the vicinity of our farm. Yet again, we could not have given back to these communities without CBN’s intervention. Therefore, it is rather curious for us after having attained these appreciable feats within 5 years, to hear political jobbers reacting to the exhibition of 1-million bag Abuja Rice Pyramids as a scam. Obviously, this is a sponsored media smear campaign to discredit the successes recorded as a result of the CBN intervention programmes across the agriculture value chain of various commodities.

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We therefore want to urge the CBN, Rice Millers Association of Nigeria (RIMAN) and Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), and even other agricultural commodity associations to continue to work together towards making our country self-sufficient in food production under the ABP in order to uplift our economy. Additionally, the RIMAN and RIPAN who are today among the biggest beneficiaries of the ABP as anchored by the CBN as off-takers of the produce, should have the courage to challenge and debunk the negative insinuations about Abuja Rice Pyramid as falsehood. Let it be on record that our company (Tiamin Rice) was allocated 20,000 bags of rice from the 1million bags of paddy that made up the pyramid and let it be known that the outstanding 9.8 million bags of rice have since been allocated to other members of our association across the country.

In conclusion, we call on RIMAN and RIPAN not to allow politicians rubbish this crowning accomplishment, which the future of our country depends on. Such resounding developmental policies that can turn around the fortunes of our country for our common good must be encouraged and supported by all well-meaning citizens of this country.

It is time for the RIMAN and RIPAN to speak out and lay this matter to rest.

Mr Ahmed is the MD/CEO of Tiamin Rice.

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