Cosmas Maduka, the founder and chairman of Coscharis Group, has unveiled a N12 billion rice farm and processing plant in Anambra State. The unveiling event took place on the 3rd of November, and was graced by the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, Anambra State Governor, Wilie Obiano, his Kebbi State counterpart, Alhaji Abubakar Bagudu, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural development, Mustapha Shehuri, among others, This Day reported.
Rice has become a big subject in Nigeria since 2015, when the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration partially banned the importation. The government said the decision to restrict rice import was in a bid to diversify the economy and move concentration away from oil to agriculture.
But the ban has resulted in hunger and economic hardship because many businesses thrived on rice importation, and locally produced rice was not sufficient to bridge the demand gap.
Nigeria consumes more than 7 million tons of rice annually, and according to the U.S Department of Agriculture, World Markets and Trade, Nigerian farmers can only produce 3.7 million tons of rice presently. That leaves a wide number of empty stomachs to be filled.
The CBN has introduced policies to facilitate private partnership in its commitment to develop the agricultural sector of the economy. Based on the agricultural facilitation policies of the CBN, many private companies are embracing the partnership.
According to Emefiele, Coscharis rice plant is evidence that the efforts of Buhari’s administration in diversifying the economy and creating jobs through focused intervention in critical areas are yielding results.
“We must also commend the determination and doggedness of Coscharis Farms to establish not only its Rice Farms but also the Processing Mill which will process not only its paddy rice, but also those paddies produced by local small holder farmers under our Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP),” he said.
Commenting at the event, Maduka said he had the vision for farming a long time ago, but in 2015, saw “the need to develop Nigeria’s agricultural sector” in line with Buhari’s vision, as a reason to make the vision a reality.
“We started with a land in Anaku that was abandoned for so many years because of the peculiar terrain which is prone to flooding. Despite challenges in mechanized farm development, I can tell you today that we will soon cover the entire about 3000 hectares of land that Coscharis Farms Limited currently owns in Anaku.
“We also have plans for smallholder farmers in our surrounding communities to provide training, inputs under the out-grower scheme in cooperation with NIRSAL and other agencies.
“The plan to build a rice processing mill is motivated by our desire to fix a problem. We want to create more jobs and also want to build skills in the region.
“We want to process paddy harvested from our farm in Anaku into best quality rice. We want to contribute significantly to the government’s efforts to ensure food sufficiency through local production of rice. In addition, we want to set the pace for production of best quality local rice that will cause our people to change their milled rice which is known to be rich with important nutrients.
“Rice is the most popular staple food consumed by every household in Nigeria and the country is the highest consumer of rice in the West African sub region and the second largest importer in the world, buying at least 2 million metric tons per annum. Today, we have commenced the journey to accomplish these goals.
“Coscharis Rice Processing Mill, Igbariam is a 120, 000 MT modular ultra-modern Rice Mill this is the first phase with 40, 000 MT per annum capacity. The processing mill has come to stay in order to improve the quality of life of Ndi Anambra as well as the economy of the state and Nigeria in general. The next phase of 80, 000 MT per annum will come on stream before the end of next year,” he said.
The Coscharis Group is not the only conglomerate in Nigeria to embrace farming in such a large way. In 2014, the Dangote Group pledged to invest $1 billion in rice farming to reduce the import quantity of rice and to create jobs.
The group said a few days ago, that “Nigeria will soon be exporting rice,” as there has been a tremendous increase in their farming activities recently. The farms, covering 150, 000 hectares across Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Niger, Sokoto, and Zamfara states, are expected to be producing millions of tons of rice daily. The Dangote Group said it’s also establishing rice mills across the country for processing.
However, the impact of these developments is yet to be felt as the price of rice keeps going higher, and more Nigerians are complaining of hunger as a result of the Nigerian closed borders. The federal government has been urged to take on the challenges stymieing farming in Nigeria, by providing the infrastructure that farmers need to improve their agricultural activities.