Thus when Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano envisioned the state’s agricultural revolution with rice production at the fore-front, many a pessimist, waved it off. Today, the Anambra Rice brand is a well-known staple and one of the most sought after rice in Nigeria.
It took a vision embedded in agriculture one of the 4-Pillars of the Obiano Economic blueprint and galvanization of strong private sector collaboration in 2015 to make the dream a reality.
Thus from 80,000 metric tonnes cultivated by out growers across Anambra rice belts in eight LGAs including Ayamelum, Anambra East, Anambra West, Ogbaru, Awka North, Orumba South, Orumba North and Ihiala; the state’s consumption needs of 300,000 metric tonnes has been met and surpassed. As of 2018, Anambra is assured of over 345,280.58mt of rice paddy.
With the right government policies, improved mechanization, donor support etc, the Anambra rice farmers have further increased their average yield with the big farms automating their rice processing.
Currently, there are eight rice processing companies with capacity for over 849 tons per day. They include; Stine Industries 440, Coscharis 40, Joseph Agro (JOSAN) 60, Joseph Agro (Umumbo) 219, Udoka Mill, 45, Wisdom Mill, 45, Wisdom mill 45, and RIFAN Mill 40 with others in the pipeline.
As governor Obiano commissions, the Coscharis modern rice Mill at Igbariam, it is worth remembering that it took one man’s dream, and commitment to the vision with a sustainable public-private sector initiative in place, to set in motion these chain of actions that has changed the narrative of rice production in State Anambra for good – from next to nothing to making major contributions to the growth of the State GDP. It is indeed another promise kept.
Given the importance of rice as a staple food in Nigeria, boosting its production has been accorded high priority by the government in the past seven years. The country has been making frantic efforts to ensure that agriculture and allied services play a key role in its quest for economic and revenue diversification.
Since then, significant progress has been recorded and rice production in Nigeria reached a peak of 4.7 million tons in 2018, according to data from the United States Department for Agriculture.
To further boost local production and ensure that the country attains self-sufficiency in rice, Coscharis Farms Limited has resolved to boost the production of the crop in the country as it commissioned its N12 billion ultra-modern state-of-the-art facility, with a capacity of processing 40, 000 metric tons (MT) per annum.
The mill which is located at Igabraim, Anambra is the first phase of an entire project expected to have an annual milling capacity of 120,000 MT when completed by the end of 2020.
The investment has already created over 470 direct and indirect jobs as the company participates across the entire rice value chain from seed multiplication to production and processing.
Cosmas Maduka, president, Coscharis Group parent company of Coscharis Farms Limited said during the commissioning that the plan to build a rice mill was motivated by the desire to create jobs and contribute significantly to ensuring that the country attains self-sufficiency in rice production.
“The plan to build a rice processing mill is motivated by our desire to fix a problem. We want to create more jobs and also want to build skills in the region,” Maduka said.
“We want to contribute significantly to the government’s efforts to ensure food sufficiency through local production of rice,” he further said.
He noted that the processing mill has come to stay and improve the quality of life of the indigenes while driving economic growth and development in the region.
He added that the company is out to produce high-quality rice that can compete with any other in the domestic market while creating high-end rice from Nigeria, for Nigerians.
“Agriculture as humanity’s oldest industry has evolved from the early days when everything was done manually; when animals were the only source of manpower and from sowing of seeds by hands to the use of plow and other mechanized implements,” he said.
“At Coscharis Farms Limited, we embrace challenges and we convert our challenges to positive energy because our vision is to be the best in whatever we do,” he added.
He applauded the Federal Government for its various initiatives in supporting agriculture, saying that the president has a clear agenda of food sufficiency in the country.
Similarly, he appreciated the Anambra State government for supporting the initiative right from the start and for creating a conducive environment that has made the investment possible.
“Coscharis Farms Limited did not achieve these important milestones alone, we enjoyed the partnership and cooperation of many,” he said.
Nigeria’s milled rice production is currently put at 4.78 million metric tons, while domestic demand is put at 7 million MT per annum, indicating a demand-supply gap of 2.2 million MT, data from the United States Department for Agriculture state.
But with the rice produced and milled by the Coscharis Farms, the country’s deficit will be further reduced.
The Coscharis Farm currently has about 3,000 hectares of land for rice cultivation in Anambra state and an irrigation system to ensure all year cultivation of the crop.
The highly mechanized farm also has a robust out-grower program in place within Anambra and neighboring states which is currently empowering thousands of smallholder farmers with key inputs for the cultivation of rice paddy to feed the mill.
Similarly, the farm has developed hybrid rice seeds that yield 8 MT per hectare which is 4MT higher than the country’s average yield per hectare.
Experts say with the country’s rice revolution expansion being carried out currently by Coscharis and other agro-allied firms, Nigeria can be self-sufficient in rice production within the next three years.
To support local investments and boost production, the Federal Government has since August shut down its border to address the issue of smuggling through its land borders while also growing the consumption of local rice.
The government had since imposed a 10 percent duty and 60 percent levy on rice imported through the seaports to discourage importation of the produce.
Speaking also during the launch, Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank said that the project is a national reference to the apex bank as it was funded under the N200 billion Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS) intervention of bank.
Emefiele stated that the mill will not only mill rice paddy produced by its farm but also the ones grown by smallholder farmers under the Anchor Borrowers Program.
“The fact that Coscharis Farms Limited is a reality today is an attestation to the fact that the objectives of the administration of President Mohammadu Buhari towards diversifying the Nigerian economy and creating jobs through focused intervention in critical areas is yielding results,” he said
Coscaharis before its voyage into rice cultivation was known as the pharmaceutical of automobile in Nigeria.
“Our core business is we run a business that can be regarded as pharmaceutical of automobile. Anybody that drives a car in Nigeria is our customers and that is what is keeping us going,” said Maduka.
He stated that his vision to invest in the agricultural sector was conceived over 30 years ago when he acquired the lands in which the rice farm and mill are located in Anambra.
“Our involvement in agriculture is not an accident as Cosharis as an organisation has been playing a critical role in every sector of the economy,” he said.
“We only waited for the opportunity to present itself and when it was ripened to move into it we did,” he added.
He noted that the company’s first goal is to solve the food problem in Anambra and its environ and learn from the experience to scale production to other parts of the country.
“In future, we will do something in Lagos or southwest area to target those markets. Once we perfect here, we have been given 20,000hecatres of land in Kogi state. We would take them one step at a time.”