Rice production is one of the most important economic activities on earth which utilizes large area of land for its cultivation. Rice growers and consumers form the bulk of the world’s poor. More importantly, rice has high capacity to generate employment and income for young people, rural farmers and women. It can be produced 2 times in a year with maturity period ranging between 100 – 120 days. The 10th largest rice producers in the world are China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines, Japan and Brazil, these countries account for 86% of world production.
Rice is an indispensable food and cash crop that can guarantee food sufficiency for any nation producing it. Overtime, rice consumption has increased rapidly because of urbanization, relative ease of preparation, and convenience in storage. If a single person can consume 20.9kg of milled rice per year and nearly half of the world’s population eat rice. How about targeting your local market? Can you not see the potential markets?
Rice is commonly boiled and eaten with stew or vegetable soup. It is also used in the preparation of several local dishes that are eaten in every home, especially during festivals and ceremonies. Popular rice dishes in Nigeria include; Jollof rice, Fried rice, Plain rice, Coconut rice, MASA and TUWO. Following that, Nigeria’s rice consumption is expected to jump to 35 million metric tons by 2050.
Rice has been successfully grown in Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Lagos, Oyo, Delta, Enugu, Baylesa, Cross River, Sokoto, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Niger, Kwara, Kebbi, Kano, Kaduna, Taraba, Adamawa, Borno, Benue, Edo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Nasarawa, FCT etc.
In Nigeria, demand for rice is put at 5.2 million ton per annum with local production still at 3.3 million ton leaving a demand gap of 1.9 million tons which is met by importation from Thailand, Pakistan, India, United States, Vietnam etc. Importation from those countries alone is about 24 million MT valued at $8.86 billion, this trend has caused a drain on foreign reserve. The current and past Government have worked toward improving rice sufficiency in Nigeria. Presently, partial ban/restriction on rice importation, escalating demand and abundant suitable growing ecology have been the major driving forces for farmers, investors, private organisations and Government-owned organisations to go into commercial rice production which is indeed a booster for economy prosperity.
There are many value chain opportunities in rice production one can invest in and it includes; Rice farming, certified seed production, rice machinery and other input supplies/hiring, rice milling/processing, rice marketing and export.
Interestingly, on a commercial scale, it is possible to start producing your own branded rice packaged in 5kg, 25kg or 50kg without owning a milling factory; there are quite number of integrated large scale rice processing plants that mill and process rice paddy. A 50kg of rice has been sold between N8,000 – N15,000.
Important Considerations for Commercial Rice Farming
The following considerations are important for successful rice farming;
1. Ecology: Rice grows in a wide range of ecology. It has been grown in rain-fed upland, irrigated upland, rain-fed lowland, irrigated lowland, deep water and mangrove swamp. Rice is considered as semi-aquatic annual grass hence it is important to grow rice where there is constant and abundant water supply. Choose fertile land (40 – 60% clay), valley or Fadamas with good water retention. During land preparation, uplands and lowlands need proper soaking, ploughing/harrowing or rototilling under shallow submerged as well as puddling before planting/transplanting. A flat field is ideal for upland rice. Sloppy field may need bunds to retain water and reduce erosion. Lowland rice (3 – 6.5 tons/ha) cultivation usually gives more paddy yield than upland (2 – 4 tons/ha). About 90% of rice production is from lowlands which could be rain-fed or irrigated or both.
2. Water Supply: Upland rice may be susceptible to moisture stress under rain-fed condition with the current climate change. In such case, rain water can be capture by creating field bunds. Rice needs more water during reproductive stage (tillering, panicle initiation, flowering, milking and dough stage). Adequate water supply through precipitation or irrigation is important for fast development, weed control and maximizing the efficiency of fertilizers and herbicides applied. The rice should be completely drained 10-15 days before harvesting to promote uniform ripening of grains and timely harvest. Over flooding and erosion should be prevented by building dyke across flood plains.
3. Seed Variety: Different seed varieties have been developed to suit particular ecology. Seed variety planted will determine final output hence it is important to get certified seeds from reputable suppliers. Good rice varieties should give higher level of germination; reduce the need for gaping, give uniform/vigorous growth; resistant to insect pests/diseases and have higher yield. Recommended rice varieties for uplands are FARO 58 (NERICA 7), FARO 56 (NERICA 2), FARO 49 (ITA 315) etc. while lowlands are FARO 44 (SIPI692033), FARO 60 (L19), FARO 50 (ITA 230) etc. There are other varieties recommended for other ecology. For example, NERICA varieties are mainly developed for upland cultivation. Seeds should be treated (dressing and priming) before planting based on soil condition and varieties for adequate protection and better germination
4. Soil Amendment: Adequate fertilization program is needed for optimum development. Rice mostly needs nitrogen and phosphorus based fertilizer. Apply fertilizer in completely drained field. The use of biofertilizer in rice cultivation has been found to reduce conventional fertilization cost by 50%.
5. Weed/Pests/Disease Control: Weed should be properly controlled during land preparation Pre-emergence and post-emergence herbicides should be properly applied. Apply herbicides in completely drained field. Use disease resistant, healthy and treated seeds for planting to prevent diseases and pests attack. Timely application of insecticide is also important. It is important to protect rice field from bird attack at milking stage. Advanced Scarecrows technology or bird repellent chemical can be used against bird attack.
By and large, timely harvest (usually 30-45 days after flowering) is crucial to maximizing yields and grain quality. With good management, success is guaranteed in rice farming.
Ayodele Farinde is an agribusiness, greenhouse and organic agriculture expert.
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