Market Survey On The Quality And  market Price  Of Locally Produced Rice In Nigeria.

By Babatunde Joseph Oduntan
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THE place and importance of rice as a staple food for Nigerians and indeed amongst families in homes around the world is increasing in the new millenium.

In Nigeria as in many nations of the world, market prices of grains particularly rice usually rise during festive seasons or period like, Easter, El-Kabir, Christmas or New year celebration.

Rice is also ment for special occasions like, Birthday, Marriage, Cultural/Traditional Festivals and House warming or the Naming ceremony of a new born Baby.

In Nigeria, government support and policy to increase rice production for consumption and export to improve the country's economy is yielding the desired results.

Recent market survey conducted at the weekly Sabo and Atakumosa markets in Ilesa, Osun state Nigeria, showed an array of locally produced Nigeria rice hawked about in wheel barrows or displayed in big bowls in market stores by traders from villages, towns within and outside Ilesa and the state of Osun.

The different faces of milled rice brought to the market for sale by traders attract or repel the consumers to purchase at the high price put on them based on quality and the standard of the finished product.

Majority of upland and lowland rice farmers in the South West, Mid West, South East and South South part of the country with appropriate bird pest protection put in place, must have harvested and threshed their rice farms and only waiting for good sun shine weather to dry and bag for the market or storage.

Farmers in rice producing states in the middle and northern states of the country favoured with irrigation facitlities to augumemt poor rainfall for lowland rice production still have about two to three months left to harvest their growing rice farms.

In markets visited in Osun state, close observation revealed that the bulk of rice sold presently are old stocks from government or private reserves.

The quality of rice sold in the market is rated poor, average or high based on whether it is free of stones, black specks or extraneous materials and many times rice quality is based on taste, cooking nature and preservation value for eating the next day.

In markets visited in Ilesa town, high quality long, medium or short grain rice sells at one thousand naira($2.8) per modu of 2.0 kg weight, while a modu(2.0kg) of medium quality rice cost seven hundred naira($2.0) and a modu of 2.00kg) poor quality rice cost between five hundred and six hundred naira($1.4-$1.7).

People who buy poor quality rice with stones and extraneous materials are advised to do some hand picking and tray-winnowing or use a local small callabash and water to remove stones and extraneous material from the rice and wash well before cooking.

Nigerian rice farmers are encouraged through loans, provision of good seeds and other production inputs to produce rice as food for the teeming population majority of whom are poor and live in rural areas of the country and to create good and profitable market for export of supplus to generate income and/or revenue for the farmer and government to improve the economy, the live of the farmer and his household/or family.

Analysts believe that the price of rice in markets in the northern part of Nigeria is cheaper than in the South West, South-South or South East parts of the country.

Northern states with developed land and facilities for irrigation farming is the home for rice production in the country as they have comparative advantage for rice production. Again staple foods grain or tuber crops are usually cheap in areas where they are produced than when purchased and transported or exported to other areas or states within the same country or outside it.

Rice produced in areas with comparative advantage for its production are usually cheap and affordable by the poor people who live in the area.

Food items become costly and unaffordable by the poor people when middle men or traders(Men and Women) buy cheap at farm gate prices where they are produced and transport them long distances with huge amount of money eslewhere by Road, Train, Ship or Air to sell in places far away from their places of production.

The eventual handling cost of transportation incurred by the traders inflate the market price of food items since he or she has to benefit from the services rendered to the people to make a living and continue in the trade business.

We believe the present high price of rice will still come down when more private and government rice reserves are pushed into the market as cobweb theory of demand and supply will eventually set in to bring down or lower the market price of rice.

During the planting season in Nigeria, perishable food items with short shelf lives are usually abundant and cheap, farmers and traders alike want to quickly sell them off in order not to incur loss due to spoillage as a result of poor or lack of appropriate storage facilities.

Nigerians have been advised to cultivate the habbit of going for alternative cheap staple food-stuffs produced locally when the market price goes up for any vafourite staple food-stuff. The country is blessed with land, approriate weather, enough research findings and manpower to produce abundant staple food crops like, Yam, Cocoyam, Sorgum, Millet, Sweet Potato, Irish Potato, Wheat, Corn, Onion, Vegetables(Leaves and Fruits), etc.

They come to the market cheap at diffrent season and time, if one is high and unaffordable the other is cheap and food will be available to the people.

All said and done, to improve rice production in Nigeria, the fact still remains that we have to improve the quality of rice produced by our local farmers.

Whether long, medium or short grain rice, the harvesting and post harvest treatment plays a vital role on the quality of the finished rice product and the acceptability by the consumers.

We want to use this opportunity to call the attention of leaders and members of the Rice Farmers' Association of Nigeria(RIFAN to make strict laws and sanctions to see that only the best quality processed rice, good for consumption gets to the open market in Nigeria

Government must intensify farm extension services to help rice farmers from planting through harvesting, post harvest processing, bagging and good storage skill, to ensure the quality of rice produced each season in the country.

RIFAN must encourage rice farmers to improve post harvest processing method to improve rice quality and and must also grade milled rice and national annual price per tonne must be based on quality.

Practical experience has shown that good quality rice production needs close and strict stage by stage supervision from planting to harvesting to parboiling to drying to milling, bagging and storage.

Government of non rice producing states in Nigeria are advice to out-source production or build large silos to purchase paddy rice or milled rice during plenty, store and sell to the people during off season to enhance state internal revenue generation(IRG).

Local farmers who cannot afford the huge cost of rice harvesting machines, must be encouraged to do their manual rice harvesting with sharp sickles and experienced men with instruction that they must cut the rice stalk 10cm above the soil without uprooting the bulk of the rice stubbs from the soil. This will minimise introducing stones if threshed on a well spread large tapaulin or cloth or polythene sheet. Good and thorough winnowing will remove shafts and other extraneous materials before bagging and storage of the paddy rice.

Rice parboiling a vital post harvest process for quality rice is a way of hardening the rice mesocarp and softening the palea and lema to ease their removal for effective, efficient and perfect milling process.

Excellent milling means parboiling or steam heating the paddy rice, this must be done at the right temperature by trained and experienced people. The parboiled paddy rice must be dried under shade before taking to the mill.

Nigeria and indeed rice producing nations in Africa need appropriate modern rice milling machines that will destone and polish the milled rice to enhance quality.

Government must support the purchase of these easy to operate and maintain or manage milling machines to replace local milling process in rural villages that usually results in broken grains and poor quality rice.

Government investing on importing cheap and affordable milling machines into the country or create avenue for the fabrication of milling machines by our local Engineers, blacksmiths and crafts men.

This can create employment opportuinities for many Nigerians to earn a living or become employers of labour in villages, communities or neighbourhoods across the nation.

Government can also establish milling centres with factories equiped with appropriate equipment to make small, medium or large size cheap paper or polythene good quality sealed satchet milled easy to cook rice for breakfast, lunch or diner by induvidual or family group at home, restaurants, Cafeteria in cities and towns in Nigeria and outside the country.(Taking us back to post colonial old days of Uncle Ben's foreign rice, very cheap quality rice easy to cook and wseet to taste.)

It must be made available in local markets, super-markets all around Nigerian cities and towns or even as export finished products to outside countries as a way to promote the value of our local rice in Nigeria.