WACOT Rice Limited’s (WRL) strategy to become West Africa’s leading rice producer got a massive boost from the USAID-funded West Africa Trade and Investment Hub (WATIH). The Nigerian based subsidiary of TGI Group recently signed a co-investment partnership with WATIH to the tune of $10.5 million (about N4.99 billion) to support the company’s Argungu Rice Outgrower Expansion Project based in Kebbi State. In this partnership, WRL will register an additional 5,143 farmers to complement its already existing outgrower network in the state. These new farmers are expected to cultivate over 5,000 additional hectares of land thereby producing over 20,000 tons of paddy which will be utilised at WRL’s 120,000-ton rice mill in Kebbi.
While receiving the good news, Executive Governor of Kebbi State, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu said that the state government was pleased that the efforts of the Federal Government in agricultural revolution was being recognised by international bodies like USAID and WATIH. He further said: “WACOT Rice Limited is the first major rice mill commissioned under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and the support by both globally reputable organisations is a big boost for private sector investment in the Nigerian agriculture sector”. Governor Bagudu, who is the Vice Chairman of the National Food Security Council and also National Champion on Nigeria Rice Revolution, commended WRL for boasting the drive towards food security in Nigeria.
It is expected that this project will improve the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the region while addressing Nigeria’s food security concerns. The average smallholder farmer in Argungu, Kebbi State cultivates about half a hectare of land and earns less than $200 (N95,000) net income annually, barely sufficient to cover the needs of a household. Although the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrower Program has provided significant funding to rural farmers thereby increasing yields, many other farmers still struggle to get access to any form of finance. This has hindered their ability to scale up their activities by increase the size of land they cultivate as well as yield and productivity. Commenting on the development, Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samaila Muhammad Mera described the partnership and the investment by WRL as a welcome development. “It is a win-win situation for our farmers, the state government and the people of the state generally”, the traditional ruler further said.
He described the WRL project as timely coming shortly after the farmers experienced devastating flooding that wiped out their farmlands. The partnership between WRL and WATIH will complement and enhance the on-going Central Bank of Nigeria and Federal Government programmes by helping farmers access finance, high quality inputs and technical extension services leading to higher yields and quality. The guaranteed paddy off-take agreement between WRL and the farmers, which is a key pillar of this partnership, will provide a sustainable market going forward. On the partnership with USAID and its benefits, Strategy and Business Development Manager of TGI Group, parent company of WRL, Habiba Suleiman, says: “The overall impact is to enhance yield per hectare and help farmers better their livelihoods. In terms of their earnings, this project will help them to be able to send their kids to school, access better livelihoods, access better healthcare and to have better nutrition, and quality of life”.
Anne E. Patterson, USAID Mission Director, said of the partnership: “The US government is pleased to partner with the private sector in Nigeria to develop market-driven solutions and sustainably improve food security by supporting local rice production”. She added that, “with this new co-investment partnership, smallholder farmers in Kebbi State can increase yields and improve the livelihoods of their families”. Working in partnership with USAID its Feed the Future strategy, the Federal Government has prioritised local production of rice, a major staple in the country. By supporting smallholder rice farmers to increase their yields by 50 to 100 per cent, the co-investment will help farmers earn more and lift themselves out of poverty, create thousands of jobs, and attract further private investments in the agriculture sector.
WACOT Rice disclosed that it would be placing a strong emphasis on women and youth, with at least 50 per cent of the new farmers trained to be women and 70 per cent of all the farmers under 30 years old. Commending the team for the laudable feat, Group Managing Director of TGI Group, Rahul Savara laid emphasis on the Group’s mission to always add value to its communities. “No doubt, this project not only supports our drive to support the government in achieving food security in Nigeria, it also allows us to support our community, Kebbi, which was ravaged by flood just a few months ago. For us, sustainability is a way of life. Therefore, we will continue to explore avenues to grow sustainably, while supporting others”.
WACOT Rice Limited operates a state-of-the-art rice mill in Argungu where it produces Big Bull Rice. It is one of the largest rice mills in Africa and sources paddy from various paddy producing states across Nigeria. WACOT Rice also engages in out-grower farming programmes with paddy farmers to boost their yields and guarantees off-take of paddy from farmers through buyback arrangements. WACOT Rice is a subsidiary of TGI Group. Tropical General Investments (TGI) Group is a global conglomerate with a majority of its investments based in emerging markets. TGI’s investments focus on driving inclusivity and value addition using locally sourced raw materials, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and a highly skilled workforce to produce world class products that are consumed both locally and exported to global markets.