1.1 Background of the Study
Agricultural sector was the main stay of the Nigerian economy before independence and immediately after it, until the oil boom of the 1970s. In the period before the 1970s, agriculture provided the needed food for the population as well as serving as a major foreign exchange earner for the country (Alabi and Alabi, 2009). Most government policies have been directed towards accelerating economic development with the ultimate aim of transforming the economy into an industrialized one as well as the welfare of the population (Obiechina, 2007), hence cannot be attained without drastic boost in agricultural sector which is expected to act as a catalysts towards the realization of this goal. The traditional role of agriculture in economic development provides the foundation for this position. The role includes product contribution, market contribution, factor contribution and foreign exchange contribution (Johnston and Mellor, 1961).It is the main source of food for most of the population. It provides the means of livelihood for over 70 percent of the population, a major source of raw materials for the agro-allied industries and a potent source of the much-needed foreign exchange (Alabi, Aigbokhan and Ailemen, 2004).
Rice is one of the world’s most important food crops that serve as a stable food for a large percentage of the world’s population, especially in India, China, other parts of Asia, and Africa. In Nigeria, rice is a vital food consumption staple but has also become an important cash crop where it provides employment for more than 80% of the population in the major producing areas (Okoruwa and Ogundele, 2006). Ayinde et al.(2009), drawing on WARDA (1996), note that Nigeria is both the largest producer and consumer of rice in the West African sub-region. Moreover, Nigeria consumes considerably more rice than it produces (Business Day, 2009), leading to significant imports in recent years (Table 1 – appendix iii).
Over the years, several government programs have attempted to stimulate domestic rice production with the goal of addressing the increasing demand-supply gap and making Nigeria more self sufficient in rice amongst which two of the most recent programs are the Presidential Initiative on Rice (PIR), established in 1999 and the National Program for Food Security (NPFS). There have also been trade policies constituting periods of bans and tarrifs aimed at encouraging local rice production. Despite these policies and programs, domestic rice consumption has continued to outpace domestic production leading to an ever-increasing role for rice imports. As can be seen from Table 1, rice imports have been growing steadily in Nigeria and this growth is expected to continue due to increasing demand resulting from growth in incomes, urbanization, and the associated expansion of fast food restaurants (Daramola, 2005).
In general, of the estimated 5 million metric tons of annual rice consumption in Nigeria, the annual domestic output of rice still hovers around 3.0 million metric tons, leaving the huge gap of about 2 million metric tons annually, a situation, which has continued to encourage dependence on importation. Some of the reasons for the gap are connected with the improper production methods, scarcity and high cost of inputs, rudimentary post – harvest and processing methods, inefficient milling techniques and poor marketing standards particularly in terms of polishing and packaging. Also poor or low mechanization on rice farms means heavy reliance on manual labor to carry out all farm operations Daramola (2005). Another reason is that imported rice is viewed as of better quality than locally produced rice, and that therefore domestic and imported rice are not perfect substitutes. Yet another explanation is that the long history of consuming imported rice in Nigeria has led to habit persistence and consumption inertia, which makes it more difficult for locally produced rice to compete with imported rice, Akaeze (2010). Achieving sustainable economic development in Africa will confront three central challenges: alleviating wide spread poverty, meeting current and future food needs, and efficiently using the natural resource base to ensure sustainability.
Nigeria’s population is estimated at 160 million with an annual growth rate of about 4%, World Bank (2010). Nigeria must then draw lessons from the Malthusian theory as well as follow the Human Capital led growth formula of the Asian Tigers (Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia) by drawing on comparative advantages in production and import substitution cum export promotion strategies of trade. This means self sufficiency in food which is currently lacking following that the country currently imports much of her food needs to meet local consumption demand. The implication of Nigeria’s food import as opposed to export is becoming ever more crucial to growth and development. The thrust of this paper is to ascertain the impact of rice importation on rice production in Nigeria.
1.2 Problem Statement