What’s the impact of modern rice farming in Nigeria?

A 60dB Lean Data study provides strong evidence that Coscharis Farms can contribute to reduced dependency on rice imports and improved food security
Coscharis Farms currently employs 292 full-time equivalent workers who are mostly farmers.

This article was originally written by Martina Castro and published on the British International Investment’s (BII) website here.

Rice is one of the most consumed staples in Nigeria; it’s estimated that Nigerians consume more than five million metric tons of rice each year. In recent decades, insufficient local rice production has emerged as a significant food security issue. A historically weak agricultural sector paired with a growing population means Nigeria relies heavily on rice imports to meet a growing demand.

Several strategies have sought to boost local production, increase food security and diversify Nigeria’s economy, with mixed results. For example, in 2015 the Central Bank of Nigeria blocked the use of foreign exchange to import dozens of items, including rice, which caused prices to skyrocket as local farmers struggled to meet demand. Domestic rice production has increased since then, however, historical lack of investment in agriculture has led to low productivity, and local farmers struggle to compete with much cheaper imported rice.

5M

Metric tons of rice Nigerians consume each year

27%

Lower yield in the Anambra region than the West Africa average

52%

of respondents say their Coscharis salary is their family’s only source of income

This challenge has been exacerbated by Covid-19 as the pandemic has severely disrupted imports, causing provisions to diminish and rice prices to increase. In addition, the sharp decline in oil prices as a result of the pandemic has reinforced the importance of import substitution and diversifying Nigeria’s economy away from oil.

To help strengthen Nigeria’s agricultural sector, in 2017 BII (formerly CDC) committed $15 million to Sahel Capital’s Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN). FAFIN backs sustainable businesses that seek to revolutionize the Nigerian agribusiness landscape while creating jobs, improving productivity, and strengthening supply chains. One such business is Coscharis Farms, an integrated grain processor with nearly 2,500 hectares of land for rice farming in Nigeria.

Coscharis Farms has a modernized approach to large-scale farming with potential to improve rice yields and introduce innovations and efficiencies into the value chain. This study explores the impact of the Coscharis Farms model and how rice farming in Nigeria contributes to food security and employment generation. Conducted by 60 Decibels and BII, in partnership with FAFIN and Coscharis Farms, the study draws on interviews with more than 60 of its employees and contractors.

“My life has improved because I can now pay my bills and I am independent now.”

Coscharis Farm employee

Key findings include:

  • Coscharis Farms is helping to reduce Nigeria’s dependency on rice imports and improve food security. The modern farming model adopted by Coscharis Farms helps to address the current supply shortfall.
  • The Coscharis Farms model is improving agricultural productivity through introducing modern farming methods. It currently achieves 1.3–1.7 times higher rice yields than the regional average. This is an important achievement in the Nigerian context – where low rice yields have been a persistent challenge, making it difficult for local rice farmers to compete with cheap imported rice.
  •  Coscharis Farms creates job opportunities, with many of its workers previously unemployed, and contributes significantly to workers’ family incomes. Before working for Coscharis Farms, 32 per cent of the staff were not employed and 8 per cent worked only sporadically. The company employs 292 full-time equivalent workers who are mostly farmers, and direct job creation is expected to grow as operations expand. About half of the workers surveyed reported that their salary from Coscharis Farms was their family’s only source of income.
  • Coscharis Farms workers report their quality of life has improved. 62 per cent of current employees report that their quality of life has improved since joining Coscharis Farms. Workers value the timely payment of salaries, professional development opportunities and benefits packages provided by Coscharis Farms.

The study also presented Coscharis Farms with a range of feedback from workers, and the company has recently introduced efforts to address some of these issues, including assessing the training needs and other needs of its staff.

To read BII’s full report check out the link below:

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