The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has called for the privatisation of the two rice processing plants built by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, at Elele-Alimini in Rivers State and Mbiabet-Ikpe in Akwa Ibom State. He promised his ministry’s support for the re-activation of the two rice mills with a combined capacity of 210 metric tonnes per day, but noted that they would be better managed by private investors.
The minister said this at a business meeting between his ministry and top officials of the NDDC led by the commission’s Managing Director, Sir [Barr.] Bassey Dan-Abia. The meeting, which was attended by experts from both sides, was held at the minister’s conference room in Abuja.
Dr. Adesina said that the two rice processing plants should be revived through a private sector-driven model. “The government doesn’t really have any business running anything. Its role should be to formulate policies, put infrastructure in place and give incentives to aid the private sector to perform, because it is actually the private sector that can run these mills efficiently,” he said.
The Minister said that he was ready for a very strategic engagement with the NDDC on how to get agriculture working as a viable enterprise that would create jobs in the Niger Delta region. He stated that Nigeria needed a major shift of mindset, such that people would begin to see agriculture as a business and not just any other programme by the government.
In his presentation, the NDDC Chief Executive Officer solicited the support of the Ministry of Agriculture in its drive to boost the efforts of farmers and meaningfully engage majority of the people of the Niger delta. He requested the assistance the ministry in bringing its two rice processing plants, which had been idle for many years, to life. He regretted that the plants, which were test-run in 2009, could not function due to lack of rice paddy and the fact that they had suffered depreciation over the years.
While pushing for the re-activation of the dormant rice mills, Barr. Dan-Abia, said that the NDDC was poised to establish an Out-Growers Scheme of 1,000 rice farmers in the Niger Delta. The scheme, he said, would ensure the sustainability of the rice processing plants when they become operational.
According to the NDDC boss, “expert opinion suggests that if we get it right, we should be able to have our own rice in the market by December this year. We are ready to partner with the ministry so that we can have properly branded FGN/NDDC rice in the market soon.”
Barr. Dan-Abia said that apart from the contributions of the NDDC in commercial rice farming, it had trained 14,000 youths in agricultural skills and entrepreneurship development. “We have given financial support to 3,700 farmers through the Bank of Agriculture [BOA]. We have also partnered with the International Funds for Agriculture Development [IFAD] on the Community-Based Natural Resources Management Programme in Niger Delta,” the MD said.
He said that even with these efforts, a lot more needed to be done, thus, making it necessary for the NDDC to reach out to the ministry for support. “People tend to believe that we have capacity to do almost everything. But that is not the situation. We work with limited funds and we have to match it with the demands for infrastructure and other development programmes,” Dan-Abia said.