Mr Tedheke Retson, the National Coordinator, Nigeria Farmers Group and Cooperative Society (NFGCS) says one of the major ways to boost local rice consumption among Nigerians is to invest in fabrication of de-stoning machines locally.
He made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), at the NFGCS farm in Gaate, Nasawara State on Tuesday.
Retson, who was reacting to complaints that some of the local rice purchased during 2019 yuletide was filled with stones, said de-stoning had become necessary in view of Nigerians’ continued apathy to local rice.
He said beyond border closure, governments at all levels as well as relevant stakeholders must begin to work towards making local rice, stone free, adding that it would increase demand, and boost production.
“The major challenge with regard to production and with stones is that we do not have proper de-stoning machines.
“What does it take to begin to fabricate and make de-stoning machines in Nigeria, grading machines in Nigeria that can work towards properly de-stoned rice in Nigeria?
“It has to form a part of the Nigeria question and what is that Nigeria question,’’ he said.
He urged Nigerians to continue to patronise local rice while relevant bodies and stakeholders continued to work to improve the standard.
While admitting that a lot needed to be done to make Nigerian products, particularly rice more acceptable locally and internationally, Retson urged Nigerians not to give up on the country.
He noted that most robust economies of the world started on rough paths.
“The stone is a process of our development. We will rid the rice of stones, as we rid them of the stones we will get better with fabricating our parboiling equipment.
“As we get better with parboiling we get better with colour sorting.
“As we get better in colour sorting, we get better in using rice for pharmaceutical products, for other value addition to rice.
“Not just as staple food but also as a source of major industrial growth and industrial revolution in Nigeria.
“In the 80s nobody wanted to buy anything made in China but today the world is made in China. Nigerians must understand that it will first get worse before it becomes better.’’
He further pointed out that, “there is no country in the world that became an engineering or technological power house over night.
“Have we forgotten so fast that in 1957, Toyota was rejected by the Americans? Who is the largest car making company today, Toyota, because they went back home and corrected that flaw and made it better.
“That is what Nigerians need to do.
“Whatever we suffered in December, the question we need to begin to ask is, what is it that needs to be done at the local manufacturing plants across this country to make their rice better.
“It is for us to set up national research institutions across the country and bodies like the one in Ibadan should begin to fabricate de-stoning machines.
“How can we have research institutions in Nigeria that are involved in fabricating of equipment and are telling us that there is stone rice in Nigeria?
“What is their doctorate degree for, what is their research for if they cannot make a common de-stoning machine,’’ he said.
On how NFGCS has been able to ensure that its rice, called “Gaate Gold’’ is stone free, he said the group did not hesitate to invest in de-stoning machines to give Nigerians the best.
Speaking on alleged sharp practices by some rice dealers following the border closure, Retson urged relevant agencies to be up and doing to bring such persons to book.
He said, “our failure as a country is our fault as a people.
A couple of weeks ago, it was in the news that Customs and co, raided one of the biggest rice markets in Nigeria and confiscated a lot of rice imported into this country.
“What we must do is to become more effective with regard to monitoring of the system.
“What must be done is that anybody selling any brand of rice in Nigeria without proper tagging, without proper identification, should be confiscated.
“If it is seen that the Federal Government, State or Local Governments set standard with regard to rice production and nothing is been done with regard to quality assurance and standardisation, then institutions that are responsible for those jobs should be punished.’’