By Muhammad Nasir Bello/Sokoto
(NAN) Aliko Dangote, President of Dangote Group of Companies, says his company plans to produce one million tonnes of rice within the next three years, to satisfy part of the yearly demand of 6.5million tonnes.
Less than half of the 6.5 million tonnes is produced locally and the deficit is imported at a cost of $2billion yearly.
Dangote said this on Wednesday during the inauguration of the Dangote Rice Out growers Scheme in Goronyo Local Government Area of Sokoto state.
”As agriculture remains an important sector in our economy, we plan to produce 1million tonnes of high quality parboiled rice within the next three years.
“This is by cultivating about 160,000 hectares of irrigable rice farmland in some selected states, thus making the commodity affordable to ordinary Nigerians.
“Moreover, the outgrowers scheme is committed to creating significant number of jobs, increasing the incomes of small holder farmers and ensuring food security in the country.
“This is by providing high quality seeds, fertiliser and agro-chemicals, as well as technical assistance on best agricultural practice to farmers.”
Dangote said he was moved to go into rice cultivation because of the genuine interest of the Federal government to revive agriculture as the mainstay of the economy, and reduce importation of foods that could be produced locally.
He said it is heartening that the government now has policy direction that encourages private sector’s active participation in agriculture.
“Buoyed by the policy direction of the federal government, we at Dangote decided to key into this by establishing Dangote Rice Limited to partner with states to redress the present situation where a huge sumo forex is spent on importation of rice.
“In the next three years we want to produce one million tons of quality rice and make it available and affordable to the people. We hope to do 150, 000 ha and when we are done, Nigeria will not have anything to do with importation of rice.
“Dangote Rice outgrowers scheme is committed to creating significant number of jobs, increasing the incomes of smallholders farmers and ensuring food security in the country by providing high quality seeds, fertilizers and agro-chemicals as well as technical assistance on best agricultural practice to farmers.
The Project Director, Dangote Rice Ltd, Mr Robert Coleman said that the Sokoto operation was a demonstration phase meant to familiarise the farming community with the programme.
“The phase is to familiarise the farming community through the training of extension workers and lead farmers as well as test modern technologies, ‘he said.
”In 2017, they will have 25,000 hectares to be cultivated by nearly 50,000 outgrowers, in addition to 260 jobs expected to be created by the end of the year.”
Gov. Aminu Tambuwal called on the farmers to respect the agreement signed between the state and Dangote group to ensure that,” all products are directed to the real sectors of need.’’
”The coming of Dangote to invest in the state was as a result of the government’s sustained efforts toward inviting prospective investors to the state,” he said.
Earlier, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for diversifying the economy and urged Nigerians to pray for him.