The Federal Government on Monday signed a N10 billion contract for the construction of integrated large-scale rice processing mills in 10 states in furtherance of its commitment to boost rice production locally.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the investment was signed between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on behalf of the government and MV Agro PVT of India and its subsidiary in the country, MV Agro Engineers Nigeria limited.

According to the terms of MoU, which will facilitate the conclusion of the plant’s procurement procedures, installation and inauguration, the 10 states where the rice mills would be located are Anambra, Kaduna, Kogi, Benue, Bauchi, Kebbi, Ogun, Zamfara Niger and Bayelsa.

The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who put the production capacity of each of the plants at 30,000 metric tonnes yearly, assured at the MoU signing ceremony that the 10 plants would be delivered not later than December 2019.

He described the deal with the Indian equipment makers as cost efficient, noting that the amount to be used for the 10 plants would only have covered four mills in the past.

The minister said: “We can’t afford spending $5 billion again per year importing rice. 13 million Nigerians are in the farms growing rice and the number can get to 20 million.” Ogbeh said.

Currently, Nigeria’s annual rice production capacity is only about four million metric tonnes while domestic consumption volume is estimated at about 7 million metric tonnes.

There are 18 large-scale rice mills in the country with varying yearly processing capacities that range from 15,000 metric tonnes to 120,000 metric tonnes.