Assessing the potential and policy alternatives for achieving rice competitiveness and growth in Nigeria

The principal objective of this paper is to review and assess the policy implications and potential for Nigeria to transform its domestic rice sector and become more competitive with imports in order to ultimately displace them over time. Since 2011, the Nigerian government embarked on an ambitious plan to make the country self-sufficient in rice production by 2015 under its Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA). This was in response to the perceived threat of larger volumes of milled rice being imported into Nigeria every year with an import bill that exceeds US$2 Billion. Aside from rising global prices, domestic demand for rice has been growing at a rapid pace due to changing consumer preferences, rising incomes, and growing urban populations. To achieve its goal of rice self-sufficiency by 2015, the Nigerian government has introduced a number of key policies and investment strategies to reduce imports and increase the competitiveness of local rice. This is being done through a combination of import restrictions, input policy and institutional reforms, and direct investments all long the rice value chain.

More specifically, in order to assess the feasibility and policy alternatives for transforming the domestic rice economy in Nigeria, the paper seeks to answer the following questions: Are the policies being considered by the current ATA sufficient? Will they ultimately lead to displacing imports? What are the alternatives given this knowledge? Aside from a comprehensive review of the rice value chain in Nigeria and its potential competitiveness with imports, an economy-wide simulation model of the rice economy is used to answer some of these broad policy questions. This includes introducing a range of import tariffs to assess their effectiveness in contributing to the self-sufficiency goal and implications for overall economic welfare. The hypothesis is that without alternative policy measures that address supply side issues such as improving the productivity and efficiency of the value chain, simply imposing import barriers will not succeed in switching consumer demand to local rice.

Preliminary results show that import restrictions alone will not be effective at achieving self-sufficiency in rice production. While there is a huge potential to increase the competitiveness of local rice, even this will not be sufficient to displace imports in the short and medium term. This is especially true so long local varieties cannot compete on quality and post-harvest processes remain inadequate for milling, packaging, and branding. While meeting the demand for higher quality premium rice in the short run is only feasible through the use of large scale millers as the government is already promoting, it will not lead to job creation and wealth in rural areas nor will it help poorer consumers who have to spend a higher proportion of their income on food.