Nigeria will become a net exporter of rice in the next three years, the Federal Government has said.
According to the government, over N256bn has been invested in the product in the past three years.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said this in Abuja on Monday during the second Nigeria Rice Investment Forum organised by the Business Group of the New Partnership for African Development.
He said part of the aims of the rice transformation agenda of the Federal Government which started in 2011 was to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production as well as export of the commodity.
Adesina said, "Nigeria must become a net exporter of food like Thailand and India. With the rice transformation agenda of Mr. President, a lot has been invested in the crop to ensure that we become self sufficient in the production of rice. I have no doubt that in the next three to four years, Nigeria will start exporting rice like Thailand and India."
The minister explained that 24 states across the federation were already growing rice during the dry season while the 36 states were producing the crop in the wet season.
He said seven million metric tonnes of rice paddy had been added to Nigeria's production, adding that the country was 80 per cent self-sufficient in the production of paddy rice.
Paddy is the form of rice harvested from the farm before it is milled and made ready for consumption.
Adesina said the Federal Government was currently focusing on rice milling to ensure that the quantity of paddy rice produced in Nigeria was milled.
The minister said it was very important for Nigeria to close its milling gap, stressing that the country would have to build over 18 integrated rice mills to achieve this.
On the essence of the forum, the Special Adviser to the President on NEPAD, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, said it was to provide an opportunity to review the successes achieved and the challenges faced in actualising self-sufficiency in rice production in Nigeria and West Africa.
She said, "As major stakeholders in the rice investment programme, this is an opportunity to address what needs to be done towards breaking the barriers of large scale production of rice in Nigeria.
"In this regard, issues such as setting up of mechanised rice mills, enhancement of production capabilities of small holder farmers, availability of improved seedlings, enhancing yield per hectare and building resilience against climate change must be addressed."
Meanwhile, following the steady rise in rice production in the country, stakeholders in the NEPAD Business Group says they will explore more opportunities in the industry.
According to a statement by the Administrative Manager, NEPAD Business Group, Mr. Dosunmu Oluwole, several opportunities exist for investors in the three components of rice industry, which he gives as production, processing and marketing to create wealth.
He said the development would form the basis for the discourse at the second edition of the Nigeria Rice Investment Forum holding in Abuja between November 17 and 18.
"The outcome of the first forum has been part of the ongoing success and transformation in the sector. The 2nd Nigeria Rice Investment Forum therefore intends to focus on practical steps to transform rice industry in Nigeria and West Africa for self-sufficiency, sustainability and exportation.
"The forum will bring together relevant stakeholders, development partners and relevant government agencies and departments to achieve the objectives of creating opportunities that will lead to setting up of rice production and processing projects in Nigeria and West Africa," the statement added.