A certain wise man once said, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, but the second-best time to plant is now” this old statement relays a strong demand for more proactive measures and policies to be put in place in a bid to commercialize our agricultural produce and as well beep up our national prosperity.
Nigeria, as a country, still has the majority of her citizens heavily reliant on agriculture. According to the world bank, Nigeria has more than 12 million people economically involved in agriculture. Despite these large numbers, commercialization of agricultural produce remains a significant challenge. For decades, the richness of Nigeria’s agriculture has been a loud comedy. Cereals, dairy and other agricultural food, have wobbled in growth and commercialization.
One primary reason for this weak growth is the lack of proper policies and measures. For decades and even up till the present, Nigeria lacks an effective policy mechanism that coordinates its agricultural affairs. Over the years, this country has been plagued with monarchy, monopoly, and conflicts, which has led to instability, and insecurity which aided the collapse of our institutions.
While farming and cultivation require patience, the commercialization of produce requires effective policies and strong institutions. And one primary agricultural sector with a promising prospect is the rice industry.
The Rice Sector And The Challenges
With more than 700 million metric tons produced annually across the globe, rice remains one of the most reliable staple foods in society. The market value is expected to be more than US$275 billion, and could grow with about 3.5% by 2025.
But while this stats look good and impressive, not much of the good news has sprung from Nigeria.
While Nigeria remains profoundly blessed with vast arable land, of more than 34 million hectares, large-scale rice production within Nigeria has been challenging, and the productivity level has fallen short of demand.
This trend signals a warning sign and a need to beep up production threshold, but to effectively do this, there must be a proper evaluation of the loopholes and the challenges dragging us behind. Below are few problems impeding the commercialization of Rice production.
- Poor Distribution and Market Network
While farming and cultivation remain very common in Nigeria, Sierra- Leone, and most Nigerian countries, however, Nigeria is faced with a significant problem on “How to sell it.”
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria records a 9% decline in the exportation of agricultural products in 2019. This is a result of weak regulations and distribution networks.
Thousands of farmers complain of the frugality of the export/import regulatory bodies, which has made it very difficult for farmers to distribute their locally made brand to other countries.
- Poor Infrastructure, Technology, and Management
For increased commercialization and rice production, quality technology and infrastructure cannot be overemphasized.
The top three exporters of rice (India 33% Thailand 20% United States 9.5% ) are well known for their advanced technology and improved infrastructure. The provision of world-class technology enables farmers to increase their productivity and save time and stress.
By integrating the best technology, rice production becomes faster, thereby enhancing the commercialization process.
- Unmotivating Incentive Policies
Policies are the fuel of any country’s economy. By putting enchanting and attractive incentive plans that offer a progressive prosperity plan to farmers, productivity would tremendously increase.
An example of countries that have initiated such policies is China, Singapore, etc. To boost the rice sectors, there must be credible legislation and enactment of farmers’ incentive policies.
- Access to Credit, Grants, Loans, and equipment
Access to loans has been a significant problem for farmers; the rice sector is a sector that requires heavy equipment, machines, and logistics. This equipment ultimately makes the commercialization of rice highly capital intensive.
Funding for this initiative becomes a challenge to many farmers; that’s why the need for corporate loans, grants, and credit institutions is necessary to boost commercialization.
- Conflicts and Unrest
There’s nothing that scares investors than conflicts. Over the years, Nigeria has been labelled as a no go area for investors due to political instability, wars, terrorism, etc. This has become a significant challenge as agricultural projects have been starved of funds.
For effective commercialization of the rice industry, peace and stability must be upheld and maintained.
Also read Rice Milling Business In Nigeria.
The Policies That Work
- Direct Subsidization of Agro-Based Equipment
The correlation between poverty and prosperity lies within policies and subsidies. Rice mechanization requires massive Subsidization both from the government and private sectors.
China is one testimony of this policy; in 2018, China spent $22bn on subsidies; over the years, China’s output has increased. And according to the world trade organization WTO, china’s grants account for 29% of revenue from rice.
For effective commercialization, government and private institutions must lock horns together and Subsidize Agro-Based Equipment, fertilizers, which help improve the output.
- Farmer To Buyer Export Mechanism
The distribution and market system in Nigeria and most Nigerian countries are filled with a lot of bottlenecks; this bottleneck tends to block a direct export to buyers directly from the farmers.
These bottlenecks have led to fluctuations in prices and slow exportation. For effective commercialization, a direct farmer to the buyer market system would be essential.
- Effective Digitalisation
In a world of increasing globalization and technology, any sector that refuses to innovate automatically begins to die. The rice industry is one industry that requires technique and logistics.
By initiating digitalization programs, initiatives, and policies that help the farmers. Eg. Provision of digital devices, enactment of digital training. This initiative would go a long way in increasing the productivity and commercialization of our own local based products.
- Implementation of a credit-voucher system for easy access to loans and funds
Funds and access to funds have been a significant challenge for farmers, and especially rice farming requires enormous capital. However, with an excellent credit-voucher system independent of the banks, or financial institutions, farmers can now have access to loans, and funds.
By enacting an independent fund body that attends to farmer’s financial needs without any form of drudgery.
- Automated Monitoring and feedback Mechanism
Many times, aids, equipment, fertilizers, funds, etc. are given to farmers to help boost commercialization, but because of inadequate monitoring, and a wobbling check and balance system, many farmers tend to be relaxed and sometimes corrupt.
For effective commercialization, farmers must be monitored, funds and packages must be appropriately accounted for in a regular interval.
The Policies That Don’t Work
- “Corporate Taxation for Farmers
For a nation to tax itself into prosperity, it’s like a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself by the handle” Winston Churchill. Still, the bad news is that many government officials and policymakers think the way out is taxation.
On many occasions, Farmers have been taxed, and on so many times, this policy has failed to yield productivity. For effective commercialization of rice production, farmers must be given ample financial freedom; this, in turn, will motivate them and enhance productivity.
- Communal Land Sharing system
This is one big mistake governments and policymakers often make. This communal land-sharing initially seems to be like a gift but frequently leads to disputes and distraction for farmers.
This policy must be debunked, and private land ownership must be esteemed as this would give the farmers an excellent working condition for growth and expansion.
- Joint Exportation and Marketing
Joint exportation has never really worked; this policy is more like communism. Governments must eschew this policy and focus on creating an independent distribution and market channel where farmers can export their goods by themselves with ease.
Creating the right market channel void of corruption, and regulatory bottleneck would help rice farmers commercialize their products.
“The greatest amount of time wasted is the time not getting started”-Dawson Trotman. This is the time to get the policies right. When the systems become right, all other things begin to fall in place.
Have there been significant policies over the years? The answer is yes. However, due to political instability and new leadership, these excellent policies and projects have abandoned due to party, cultural and all other forms of differences. For effective commercialization, we must retrieve and find out the strategies that worked and implement them without any segregation.
The demand for rice is increasing every day, with over 6.8 million tons consumed in Nigeria (2019). It’s time for Nigeria to commercialize and compete on a global scale; it’s time to get the policies right; it’s time to dominate the market.