Nigerian Rice Production

Nigerian Rice Production

How Nigeria Became Africa’s Top Rice Producer in 2024

Rice is one of the most consumed staple foods in Nigeria and Africa. However, until recently, Nigeria was heavily dependent on rice imports to meet its domestic demand. In this article, we will explore how Nigeria achieved a remarkable feat of becoming the top rice producer in Africa in 2024, surpassing Egypt and Tanzania.

ABP program

The journey to rice self-sufficiency in Nigeria began in 2015, when the government launched the Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP), a scheme that provides low-interest loans, improved seedlings, fertilizers and technical support to smallholder rice farmers. The aim of the program was to boost local production, reduce imports and create jobs in the agricultural sector.

The ABP was a success, as it increased the area under rice cultivation from 3.1 million hectares in 2015 to 5.9 million hectares in 2018, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The program also improved the average yield of rice from 2 tonnes per hectare in 2015 to 4 tonnes per hectare in 2020, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Reducing imports

The government also invested in irrigation schemes, mechanization and land concessions to encourage large-scale commercial rice farming. In addition, the government banned rice imports in 2015 and imposed high tariffs on smuggled rice to protect local producers and encourage consumers to buy locally grown rice.

As a result of these interventions, Nigeria’s rice production reached a record high of 9 million tonnes in 2022, surpassing Egypt’s 6.3 million tonnes and Tanzania’s 3.6 million tonnes, according to the USDA. Nigeria also became a net exporter of rice, selling its surplus to neighboring countries like Benin, Niger and Cameroon.


The benefits of rice self-sufficiency in Nigeria are manifold. It has reduced the country’s food import bill, which was estimated at $4 billion in 2014. It has also created millions of jobs along the rice value chain, from farmers to processors to traders. It has also improved food security and nutrition for millions of Nigerians who depend on rice as a staple food.


However, there are still challenges facing the rice sector in Nigeria. The cost of production is high due to poor infrastructure, inadequate storage facilities, pests and diseases, and climate change. The quality of local rice is also low compared to imported rice, due to poor milling and processing techniques. The price of local rice is also high compared to imported rice, due to high demand and low supply.

To overcome these challenges, the government and other stakeholders need to invest more in research and development, extension services, quality control, market access and consumer education. The government also needs to address the security issues that affect some rice-producing areas, such as insurgency, banditry and kidnapping.

Nigeria has made remarkable progress in rice production in the past few years, but there is still room for improvement. By addressing the challenges and seizing the opportunities, Nigeria can sustain its position as Africa’s top rice producer and become a global player in the rice market.

Nigerian Rice Production: Trends and Prospects

Rice is one of the most consumed staple foods in Nigeria and a major source of income for many farmers. In recent years, the country has witnessed a remarkable increase in rice production, driven by various factors such as government policies, improved technologies, increased demand and favorable weather conditions. However, despite the impressive growth, Nigeria still faces some challenges in meeting its domestic and international rice needs. This article will examine the trends and prospects of rice production in Nigeria, using statistical data from various sources.

Rice Production Statistics in Nigeria

According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Nigeria’s rice production reached 5 million metric tons in 2022, slightly above the previous year. The USDA data show a significant increase in production between 2015 and 2017, which then slowed before another jump in 2020 when production reached a high point of 5.04 million metric tons. The Nigerian government has also reported a big rise in local rice production between 2015 and 2016, but it does not have any figures for the last few years.

The area under rice cultivation has also expanded over the years. It grew from about 3.1 million hectares in 2015 to 5.9 million hectares in 2018, and then dropped to 5.3 million hectares in 2020 – the latest year for which we have UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) data. The average yield of rice per hectare in Nigeria was estimated at 1.6 metric tons in 2020, which is lower than the global average of 4.7 metric tons.

Factors Influencing Rice Production in Nigeria

Several factors have contributed to the increase in rice production in Nigeria, such as:

Government policies

The Nigerian government has implemented various policies to support rice production and reduce rice imports. Some of these policies include banning or imposing high tariffs on rice imports, providing subsidized inputs and loans to farmers, investing in irrigation schemes and mechanization, launching the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) to link smallholder farmers with processors and markets, and promoting local rice brands .

Improved technologies

The adoption of improved seed varieties, fertilizers, pesticides and farming practices has enhanced the productivity and quality of rice in Nigeria. Some of the improved varieties include FARO 44, FARO 52, FARO 57, FARO 60 and FARO 61, which are high-yielding, drought-tolerant and disease-resistant . The use of smart phones, drones and other digital tools has also facilitated access to information, extension services and market opportunities for rice farmers.

Increased demand

The demand for rice in Nigeria has been growing steadily due to population growth, urbanization, changing consumer preferences and cultural factors. Rice is now one of the most preferred staple foods among Nigerians, especially during festive occasions. According to Statista, the per capita consumption of rice in Nigeria was estimated at 40 kilograms in 2020. The domestic demand for rice is projected to reach 9.4 million metric tons by 2025.

Favorable weather conditions

The climatic conditions in Nigeria are generally suitable for rice cultivation, as the country has abundant rainfall, sunshine and fertile soils. However, some regions may experience droughts or floods that affect rice production. For instance, in 2020, heavy rains caused flooding that damaged about 500,000 hectares of rice farms in northern Nigeria.

Challenges and Opportunities for Rice Production in Nigeria

Despite the achievements made in rice production, Nigeria still faces some challenges that limit its potential to become self-sufficient and competitive in the global market. Some of these challenges include:

High cost of production

The cost of producing rice in Nigeria is higher than that of other major rice-producing countries such as India, Thailand and Vietnam. This is due to factors such as high cost of inputs, labor, transportation and processing; low mechanization; poor infrastructure; inadequate storage facilities; and multiple taxation . As a result, Nigerian rice is less affordable and attractive to consumers than imported rice.

Low quality of rice

The quality of Nigerian rice is often inferior to that of imported rice due to poor milling techniques, contamination with stones, dirt and foreign materials; lack of standardization; and adulteration with low-grade or expired rice . These factors affect the taste, appearance and nutritional value of Nigerian rice and reduce consumer confidence and satisfaction.

Insecurity and conflicts

The insecurity and conflicts in some parts of Nigeria, especially in the north-east and north-central regions, have disrupted rice production and marketing activities. The activities of insurgents, bandits, kidnappers and herdsmen have posed threats to the lives and livelihoods of rice farmers, processors and traders; destroyed farms and facilities; and hindered access to inputs and markets .

Climate change and environmental degradation

The effects of climate change and environmental degradation, such as erratic rainfall patterns, droughts, floods, pests and diseases, soil erosion and deforestation, have adversely affected rice production and sustainability in Nigeria. These effects have reduced the availability and quality of land and water resources; increased the vulnerability and risk of crop failure; and reduced the resilience and adaptation capacity of rice farmers .

However, despite these challenges, there are also opportunities for improving rice production in Nigeria, such as:

Expanding the area under cultivation

Nigeria has a large potential for expanding its rice cultivation area, as it has about 79 million hectares of arable land, of which only about 7 percent is currently used for rice production. There are also opportunities for developing new irrigation schemes and rehabilitating existing ones to increase the area under irrigated rice production, which is more productive and stable than rainfed rice production .

Enhancing the value chain

Nigeria has a huge potential for enhancing its rice value chain by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the various actors and activities involved in rice production, processing and marketing. Some of the areas that need improvement include increasing the access to and use of quality inputs, mechanization, extension services, credit, insurance and market information; upgrading the milling capacity and quality; promoting the branding and standardization of Nigerian rice; strengthening the linkages among farmers, processors, traders and consumers; and creating an enabling environment for private sector investment and innovation .

Diversifying the product portfolio

Nigeria has an opportunity to diversify its product portfolio by producing different types of rice that suit different consumer preferences and market segments. For instance, Nigeria can produce more parboiled rice, which is preferred by most consumers in the country; aromatic rice, which is popular among urban consumers; organic rice, which is in high demand among health-conscious consumers; and fortified rice, which can address the problem of micronutrient deficiency among vulnerable groups .

Exploring the export market

Nigeria has an opportunity to explore the export market for its rice by taking advantage of its proximity and preferential access to regional and international markets. For instance, Nigeria can export its rice to neighboring countries such as Benin, Niger and Cameroon, which are net importers of rice; or to other African countries under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. Nigeria can also export its rice to other countries that have a large diaspora population or a high demand for specialty rice .

Rice production in Nigeria has witnessed a remarkable growth in recent years, but it still faces some challenges that need to be addressed. The country has a great potential to become self-sufficient and competitive in rice production by exploiting its opportunities and overcoming its constraints. This will require concerted efforts from all stakeholders in the rice sector, including the government, private sector, civil society, research institutions and development partners.


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