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February 21, 2012

US agric group to partner Nigerian government in ‘Africa’s biggest rice farm’

by Maram Mazen

Dominion Farms Ltd., an Oklahoma- based farming company that produces rice in Kenya, agreed to start a rice farm with the government in Nigeria that would be Africa’s biggest with production at 300,000 tonnes a year.

The $40 million rice farm will reduce Nigeria’s rice imports by 15 percent and cut rice costs by 54 billion naira ($342 million) a year, Agriculture Minister Akinwumi Adesina said in Abuja, the capital, at a press conference attended by officials from Dominion Farms Nigeria Ltd. Terms of the ownership were not announced.

“There’s absolutely no reason in the world for Nigeria to be a food importing nation,” Adesina said. Nigeria must be a “food self-sufficient and food exporting nation.”

Nigeria is the world’s largest importer of rice, at 2.3 million tons a year on consumption of 4.9 million tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Demand in the country will be 35 million tons by 2050, Adesina said.

Nigeria will produce enough grain in four years to cover its needs, which would allow it to export to other West African countries and compete with Thailand and India, Adesina said.

The farm will stretch over 30,000 hectares in Taraba state in Nigeria’s east, according to a statement from the Agriculture Ministry. About 90 percent of the land will be operated by contract farmers, and the rest will be run as a corporate farm and for training purposes, according to the statement. The farm will require 15,000 workers.

Dominion Farms is based in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and operates a 17,000-acre leasehold in western Kenya, according to the company’s website.

Agriculture accounts for 44 percent of gross domestic product, and contributes to about 77 percent of all employment in Nigeria, Adesina said. Africa’s top oil producer spends “well over” 1.3 trillion naira annually to import the four basic food items of wheat, rice, sugar and fish, he said.

Nigeria plans to add 20 million tonnes of production over the next four years of crops including rice, cassava, corn, soybeans, sorghum and cotton, Adesina said.

Bloomberg

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