Nigeria consumes more rice per annum than any other country in Africa. This isn’t just because it has more mouths to feed than others on the continent. The fact that it’s a staple for people in every part of the country and across all income strata, accounts for the rapid growth in per capita consumption of the commodity within its borders over the past decade.
Until recently, almost half the quantity of rice eaten in the country was imported. But there’s been a steady uptick in the number of rice farms supplying its markets. This is thanks in part to government policy, which has encouraged entrepreneurs to take up farming as an occupation.
It’s also due to the efforts of private businessmen like Rotimi Williams, who runs the Kereksuk farm in Nasarawa State. The 45,000-hectare farm turns out several tonnes of rice every year. It’s not a huge fraction of the total required to feed Nigerians, but it’s a contribution that numerous people are grateful for.
Williams had been involved with the agricultural space before he took ownership of the farm. He describes his venturing into Kereksuk as unplanned. He came to hold a stake in the farm after negotiations for a funding deal for its previous owners fell through. In time, he took over the whole expanse, and developed it into its present state,
Kereksuk currently produces paddy rice for a value chain that’s still in need of more quality supplies of the product. According to Williams, there are several rice mills in the country, but they aren’t getting enough of the kind of rice they would want to process. He thinks there’s still plenty of room for new players who want to start up a large scale rice farm.
But he also points out that the market doesn’t guarantee sustained profits. Running costs fluctuate, and it’s not always clear that the revenues will hold up against the onslaught of variable costs when they soar- and they rise more often than farmers would like.
Besides feeding thousands of people, the wider project has a data collection company under it, which plots commodity price trends and presents the information to individuals who want to use it. The venture, Insight Afro, provides detailed data on the agricultural sector to organizations that need to make insights-based decisions about investing in the industry.
More recently, Williams has deployed his knowledge of Nigeria’s farmer-herder crisis in creating a tech-based solution to land-grazing conflicts.
Featured image source: Behance