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1.1       Background Information

Equitable and sustainable economic development cannot ignore basic food commodities particularly in developing countries such as Nigeria. Basic food commodities play important roles in economic development as their availability and costs impinge on food security, expenditures and incomes of households, particularly among poor segments of the population in both rural and urban areas. Of all the basic food commodities, rice is particularly important (Akpokodje, et al, 2001). This is because in Asia, rice constitutes the staple food. In America and Europe, it is frequently taken.  In Africa, rice is more important in the urban centres where evidence of rising level of income is more prominent (Lang, 1979; Fulani, 1980).

Nigeria is one of the largest rice producers in West Africa (WARDA, 1981).  In Nigeria, also, it is one of the important cereal grains replacing some of the grains and tuber crops.  Rice used to be the “white mans” food meant only for the elites and high class individuals in the society.  The middle class and the peasants, who constitute a higher percentage of the population, only ate rice at Christmas and other major festive periods. Many of them had the belief that rice symbolized Christmas and vice-versa (Ogbuakanne, 1998).

However, combinations of various factors seem to have triggered the structural increase in rice consumption. According to Akanji (1995), rising demand was partly the result of increasing population growth. Also, increased income levels, following the discovery of crude oil, led to the rise in the demand for the commodity.  The most important factor contributing to the shift in consumer preferences away from traditional staples and towards rice is rapid urbanization and associated changes in family occupational structures. As women enter the workforce, the opportunity cost of their time increases and convenience foods such as rice, which can be prepared quickly, rise in importance.  Similarly, as men work at great distances from their homes in the urban setting, more meals are consumed away from home where the ease of rice preparation has given it a distinct advantage.  The average Nigerian consumes 24.8kg of rice per year, representing 9% of total caloric intake (Rice Web, 2002).

Olufowole and Joshua (1979) reported that, of the 25 varieties of rice recommended to Nigerian farmers, only five were upland varieties while the remaining 20 were for swamp production.  The popular variety of upland rice in the study area is FARO 1I while the most popular variety of swamp rice is IRRI 14/16.  This is considered to be the highest yielding rice variety, while FARO 25 ranked second.

According to WARDA (1981), IRRI (1990), and Maclean (2002), Nigeria’s rice production made some remarkable gains from 1980 to 1989. The area under cultivation grew from about 400,000 hectares in 1980 to 900,000 hectares in 1989.  Paddy rice production increased from about 600,000 tonnes in 1980 to about 1,422,000 tonnes in 1989 and 3.189.833 metric tonnes from 1990 -1999.

Prior to the World Bank Rice Project and River Basin Development Authorities in Nigeria, domestic rice production depended mainly on natural rainfall which was very erratic in nature.  Farmers under this system (rain fed) employed traditional practices and inputs resulting in low yields. This was sufficient in meeting the increasing demand for rice (Onwuchekwa, 1988).

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