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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Nigerian Rice: Sustainable consumption versus production

As 22nd Conference of Parties (COP) comes to a close, REMMY NWEKE examines in this report the sustainability of Nigerian rice production as against its consumption and government efforts to balance it up so far.
Rice Import:
As we have entered ‘ember’ months since September, there is already anticipation of increase in rice consumption in Nigeria, especially towards the end of year which is full of festive activities. This consumption seems to be in variation to sustainability, mostly in local production and consumption versus import of foreign rice brands.

As at the last count, NaijaAgroNet gathered that some 571,000 metric tonnes of parboiled rice from Thailand have arrived Benin Republic, a neighbouring country sharing common border with Nigeria, which has left the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh saddened. His concern was that within a short period, these tonnes of rice will soon be transported to Nigeria. This is coming as another report has alleged that China produced fake rice, which is mixed with plastic for exportation to African countries and of course, Nigeria being most populous among them cannot be spared.

Chinese plastic rice on the prowl:
NaijaAgroNet also reports that China which has a history of making fake food products, now takes to fake rice phenomenon which has been there for a while, according to a reputable English-language newspaper in Korea, The Korea Times. As at January 2011, The paper reported that “This ‘plastic rice’ is made by forming potatoes and sweet potatoes into rice-like shape, then adding industrial synthetic resins,” said a food expert. “Since the rice is different from normal rice, it is hard like stone even when cooked. Moreover, the synthetic resin in it is very harmful to the human body.”

One Chinese restaurant association official had warned that eating three bowls of ‘plastic rice’ is the same as eating one bag of rice. He added that since the rice is very dangerous there would be strict investigation on the rice factory. Till date, no known factory has been closed in China due to this fake rice in plastic.

Goal 12 of 2030 Agenda:
Although President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Paris Agreement on September 22, 2016 at the sideline of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, which in effect, supports the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), precisely the number 12 of the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations; the global leaders under UN committed to making fundamental changes in the way societies produce and consume goods and services, in order to ensure more healthy human consumption and production patterns are sustainable.

For the purpose of insight, a travel analyst at Jumia Nigeria, Nkem Ndem, had noted that there are five ways Nigerians eat rice, including preparing and consuming it as Tuwo Shinkafa, Masa or Sinasir, Jollof Rice, Kunun Gyada as well as rice and stew cum sauce.

She described rice as one of the most common food in Nigeria with every single ethnic group having a local dish either made from or eaten with rice, attributing this factor to rice being commonly inexpensive thus, an average man’s meal and above all, easy to make. Ndem was emphatic on white rice which she depicted as classic, while recipes and sauce available to locals could be used or eaten with “brown rice or wild rice.”

By the way, there is what is now known as Awba-Ofemili rice and Anaku rice both in Anambra State, while Abakaliki rice comes from Ebonyi, just as there is Ofada rice from the south west to name a few.

Sustainable consumption:
Sustainable consumption, according to Dr. Rebecca Gillaspy of Health Science department at University of Phoenix, entails the use of products and services that have a minimal impact on the environment so future generations could meet their needs. She stressed that when practised to the letter, resources are used wisely and waste products and pollution minimized. The main way this is achieved, she said, is by doing more and better with less. Asserting, “we can find ways to meet our needs and desires without depleting our planet's finite natural resources.”

She also said, this may include carpooling, using renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, developing alternative fuel sources, such as biofuels, for our transportation needs and using environmentally friendly clean products. She maintained that practising sustainable consumption could ensure that the environment has resources available long into the future.

Conversely, she noted that in most industrialized and developed nations, consumption patterns are not sustainable, because, their products and services rely on too many natural resources and creation of too many harmful emissions when consumed. For example, most developed countries rely on non-renewable fossil fuels for their transportation needs. Underlining the fact that as more drivers hit the roads and more fuel is consumed, fossil fuel reserves are depleted, and because fossil fuels emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when they are burned, more consumption means more pollution.

Is Tractor a sustainable rice production implement?
Locally, this could be applicable to the use of Tractors for rice production, which equally consumes fuel with some running on petrol and others on termed ‘gas.’ The most common use of the term "tractors" is known as vehicles used on farms for pulling or pushing agricultural machinery or trailers, for plowing, tilling, disking, harrowing, planting, and similar tasks. Also, there is a variety of farm tractors developed for specific uses to complement the efforts of John Fowler, who pioneered the application of steam power to agriculture in the 1850s. Nowadays, tractors are powered by gasoline.

Though gasoline is a North America term, and is defined as a transparent, petroleum-derived liquid that is used primarily as a fuel in internal combustion engines; consisting mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, and enhanced with a variety of additives.

50,000 tractors for Nigeria farmers in 2016:
The owner of Agric Supper Market, Dr Bawa Garba, disclosed last December after meeting with Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) in Abuja, that Nigerian farmers required over 50,000 tractors to meet production demands. He said that because of current economic situation, his firm offered 10,000 tractors, worth some N70 billion. So they are working with RIFAN to meet the need for some 9,000 tractors and implements, which mean the 10,000 tractor will go to one association, but they have given them 4,250 tractors due to their membership which is about 12 million people.

Garba revealed that the meeting arrived at his company asking for only 10 per cent of the cost of the tractor as a down payment, after which they take delivery and stay two months before servicing of the payment by installment spread over 32 months.

Local efforts to feed Africa:
NaijaAgroNet recently reported that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in partnership with Anambra State government is exploring the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) to make the state become Africa’s food basket on rice production. Director, Development Finance Department at CBN, who represented the bank’s Awka controller, Mr. C.M. Sokari, assured the state and participants at ABP session in Awka, Anambra State capital that several interventions have been floated by the government.

NaijaAgroNet recalls that CBN in collaboration with the Federal Government (FG) is diversifying the nation’s economy from crude oil, hence the launch of the programme, he said, would reposition agriculture in the country.

“To fund the programme, the CBN had set aside N40 billion, from the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund for farmers at a single-digit rate of nine per cent,” he said; adding Nigeria, is a known major rice producer with over 20 key rice producing states in the country most of which cultivate during both wet and dry seasons. Hence, rice is one crop in which the country has comparative advantage to easily become self-sufficient, given the huge potentials that exist. He enjoined Nigerians to embrace this programme, as this will ensure that in the next few years Nigeria will no longer be one of the world’s highest importers of rice, but a net exporter of the commodity.

The State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mechanization, Processing and Export, Mr Afam Mbanefo, described Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State as an agro-friendly executive, who had supported all the innovations being put in place by his ministry. He disclosed further that the position of the government was to make sure there was a safe playing ground for the farmers in the state to participate in the programme, to retain the state brand and heritage, which is the Anambra State rice, to engage the youths and empower the farmers, even as he assured CBN of cooperation of the farmers and urged the apex bank to extend the ABP to other agriculture sectors.

Experts posit that while substantial environmental impacts from food occur in the production phase, namely agriculture and food processing; households influence these impacts through their dietary choices and habits, which consequently affect the environment through food-related energy consumption and waste generation. NaijaAgroNet gathered that 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year while almost 1 billion people go undernourished and another 1 billion hungry.

Nigerian Customs and battle for rice ban:
As the Nigerian Customs continue the battle to sustain the ban on rice importation, particularly through land borders, and canvassing total ban of imported rice into the country by 2017, it’s noteworthy that as at August 2016, Nigeria's rice imports reportedly dropped by 300,000 Metric Tonnes, according to the research by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), precisely rice imports from US. Just as NaijaAgroNet reports that in three years Nigeria spent $2.4bn on rice importation alone according to the CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who insisted that dwindling foreign reserve cannot afford continued rice import.

As the countdown continues to 2030, for our societies to produce and consume goods and services without literally harming others, the government of Nigeria along 192 member-states in the United Nations is enjoined to join forces with international organizations, business sector, non-state actors and individuals to contribute to changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns.

These, NaijaAgroNet reports, include through mobilization from all sources of financial and technical assistance to strengthen developing countries’ scientific, technological and innovative capacities to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production.

With the political leaders encouraging the implementation of the 10-year framework of programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production, beginning with all countries taking action, with developed countries leading, as well as taking into account the development and capabilities of developing countries, farmers need to take agriculture very seriously and to involve their children and youths in the venture because of the immense benefits, moreso with technology being part of the evolution, thereby making modern agriculture a money making sector.

And before the Chinese plastic rice overruns Nigeria in the name of foreign rice, the security agencies like Customs, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and NAFDAC must wake up to their avowed responsibilities and save their nations from fake rice.

Although the National Assembly had insisted hitherto on FG keeping to its ban on rice import, the over-sight function of relevant agencies at both borders and ports must be strengthened for common good, if Nigeria must keep to the goal 12 dream by 2030, in line with the tune of President Buhari’s message to world leaders at just concluded 22nd Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) tagged, COP-22 in Marrakech, Morocco.

He highlighted among others, key issues of Nigeria’s unwavering commitment to implementing the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and policy actions aimed at tackling climate change through environmental sustainable efforts.

Stakeholders look forward to seeing the words of Mr. President being matched with relevant action, only then can one say kudos to 2030 agenda.

... Linking agrobiz, sustainable environs, people & technology

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