Rice millers in Gombe State have called on both the Federal and State Governments’ support for acquisition of modern rice drying machine to boost production of the commodity in the state.
Alhaji Ahmed Pantami, the National Chairman, Rice Millers Association of Nigeria in Gombe, made the appeal in an interview with newsmen in Gombe on Saturday.
Pantami said the closure of the land borders had increased the activities of rice production nationwide, hence, the acqusition of modern equipment to facilitate the processing of rice production in large scale.
He noted that the traditional methods of drying rice paddies were no longer helpful, considering the need to meet the high demand for rice across the country, to ensure food security and sufficiency.
According to him, with modern rice drying machine and other equipment, there will be wider acceptance of locally processed rice, which will gradually replace the consumption of foreign rice in the country.
“We are calling on the Federal and Gombe State governments to assist us in providing modern drying machines to ease the stress that processors face while processing rice for consumption.
“Government through the border closure has sent a strong message that they are willing to help farmers and local industries grow the wealth of the country through agriculture and that’s why we are pleading for support.
“The Federal Government has really supported all stakeholders in rice production and we are happy. With the current revolution in rice production, Nigeria economy will really gain a lot,’’ he said.
He noted that a lot of youths had been absorbed from the streets since the closure of borders, adding “ the streets of Gombe are now empty of youths who before now take into drug abuse.
“Youths are now making money for themselves as you can see. Some of us don’t even know the number of youths working for us because the expansion makes us keep taking more youths on daily basis.
“With government’s support more youths will be mopped out of the streets. This is the best way of addressing the menace of drug abuse; so we need all the supports here in Gombe,’’ he said.
Alhaji Musa Arab, a rice processor commended the government for closing the land borders, providing road networks and even improving the supply of power but stressed that the industrial layout needed more facilities to function maximally.
“We dry our rice on the ground which is not too hygienic. It makes the work a little bit tedious. We use local drums to parboil and spread paddies under the sun for drying.
“During wet season, we wait for the sun. Sometimes we may not process anything for weeks. Now there is sun so within a day or two, I can process over 1, 200 bags of 50 kilogram rice.
“We need complete turn-around of this layout. We need government to give us modern drying facilities because we use fire wood which is polluting the environment. We need infrastructure here,’’ he said.
Arab maintained that the closure of borders was a good idea that must be sustained, adding “ we have the capacity to feed ourselves but we need this kind of idea to thrive.
“Before the border closure, it was not like this. People don’t even patronize us even though our rice is better and fresh without chemical. I sincerely commend President Muhammadu Buhari for this idea.
“Before I can’t process 10 bags of rice in a day; now I process two trucks daily. Everybody is gaining; off-takers now look for farmers to take their rice unlike before when rice farmers look for off-takers.
He advised Nigerians to venture into farming and not depend on white collar jobs, adding that there is room for everyone in the agricultural sector.
“Even the civil servants can invest in agriculture and not only depend on their jobs. There is enough wealth to be created in the sector and we must all embrace it,’’ he said.