Rice Production in Nigeria


General information 

  • GNI per capita at PPP$, 2011: 2,290
  • Internal renewable water resources, 2011:  221 km3/year
  • Incoming water flow, 2011: 65.2 km3/year
  • Main food consumed, 2009: starchy roots, sorghum, millet, maize, rice, wheat, vegetables, fruits 
  • Rice consumption, 2009: 20.9 kg milled rice per person per year

Production seasons




Main, south
Main, north
Off, south
Off, north

Write-up taken from the IRRI’s Rice Almanac (2013):

Nigeria is located in western Africa between Benin and Cameroon and has a total area of 923,768 km2, of which 34.6% (2009) is arable land, and is contained within a 4,047 km land boundary and a coastline of 853 km. The climate varies from equatorial in the south to tropical in the center and arid in the north. Terrain varies from southern lowlands, central hills and plateaus, mountains in the southeast and plains in the north. The estimated population in 2011 is 162.5 million, with an estimated annual growth rate of 2.6%. Life expectancy at birth is 52 years. Agriculture contributes about 35% to the GDP and employs about 70% of the total labor force. Exports are dominated by oil and derived products (95%). 

Recent developments in the rice sector

Consumers’ preferences are shifting from traditional staples (such as cassava, maize, and yams) to rice. Urban consumers currently prefer imported rice to locally produced rice on quality grounds.

The area under rice increased from 1.8 million ha in 1995 to about 2.72 million ha in 2006 but dropped back to about 1.8 million ha in 2010. Production increased from 2.92 million t in 1995 to a high of 4.18 million t of paddy rice in 2008 but went down to about 3.22 million t in 2010. Rice yields across ecosystems over the last 20 years were between 1.3 t/ha and 1.9 t/ha. Rice imports have been increasing steadily, reaching 1.8 million t of milled rice in 2009. Average yearly per capita consumption was 15.8 kg during 1981-90, and by 2009 it was estimated at 20.9 kg. During 1990-2009, self-sufficiency reached a high of 87% but, during 2009, it declined to 64%.  Caloric intake per day from rice increased from 7.3% in 1995 to 7.9% in 2009. Protein intake from rice over the same period increased from 6.7% to 6.8%. Fertilizer consumption in Nigeria is at 13 kg/ha, one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa. Less than 1% of the arable land is irrigated. Farmers have limited access to credit and extension services. Only about 30,000 tractors are available for all 14 million farming families or groups. Processing capacity is a major bottleneck to increasing the national rice supply. Increasing local rice production means that scarce foreign exchange used to import rice can be used to develop the local rice sector. Imports of rice in 2006 cost Nigeria $695 million, well above the 2001-05 average of US$113 million The Nigerian government started an Agricultural Transformation Agenda in 2011 with rice as one of the five priority commodity value chains. The objective is to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice by 2015.

Rice environments

The three rice production environments and their coverage in Nigeria are rainfed lowland (69.0%), irrigated lowland (2.7%), and rainfed upland (28.3%). More than 90% of Nigeria’s rice is produced by resource-poor small-scale farmers, while the remaining 10% is produced by corporate/commercial farmers. 

About 95% of the processors are small-scale with low-capacity and obsolete mills. Nigeria possesses a huge but largely untapped potential for developing irrigated rice. There are an estimated 3.14 million ha of irrigable land, out of which less than 50,000 ha are growing irrigated rice. Nigeria has large irrigation schemes in Anambra, Kwara, Kogi, Adamawa, Niger, Sokoto, Kebbi, Borno, Bauchi, and Benue states. 

Production constraints

In the irrigated rice schemes, production constraints include low nitrogen-use efficiency and iron toxicity, disease and pest pressure (especially birds), and low mechanization. Socioeconomic constraints include a lack of involvement of farmers in the planning and implementation of irrigation schemes, lack of access to inputs (including credit), and a loss of labor and an aging farming population because of migration to cities. Rice yield in these schemes is 3.0—3.5 t/ha compared with the potential of 7—9 t/ha. 

In the rainfed lowland environment, rice cultivation is characterized by a low yield range of 1.5—3.0 t/ha vis-à-vis a potential of 3.0—6.0 t/ha, caused by suboptimal water management, inadequate weed management, low adoption of modern varieties, low mechanization, pest and disease pressure, and uncertain land tenure.

In the upland environment, rice cultivation is challenged by drought, low adoption of improved varieties, soil acidity and general soil infertility, poor weed control, limited capital investments and labor shortages, and low mechanization. Yields range from 1.0 to 1.7 t/ha compared with a potential of 2.0—4.0 t/ha.

Farmers and rice value chain actors have difficulty in accessing agro-inputs, particularly quality seed, fertilizer, and credit. Infrastructure development is lagging behind with respect to irrigation facilities, feeder/rural roads, and rice storage and processing capacity. In the past, changes in government policies in the areas of concessions and tariffs have discouraged investors. In general, the rice value chain is characterized by yields that are far below what would be possible with improved management, improved market information and structure, and sufficient and updated rice-processing capacity. 

Production opportunities

Imported rice volumes dominate rice trading in Nigeria because of the poor quality of locally produced rice. A huge potential market for locally produced rice exists in urban centers if quality, standards, and grading are addressed. The government plans to put more land under irrigation for rice production and rehabilitate dilapidated irrigation schemes under the Agricultural Transformation Agenda. For upland rice systems, NERICA varieties will be promoted in the north-central and southwest regions of the country. Yield gaps can be reduced substantially across environments through the adoption of good agricultural practices and principles (integrated rice management), and the use of robust and high-yielding varieties. 

Policies and conditions that offer opportunities for developing the rice sector in the country include zero tariffs on agricultural machinery and equipment, a large domestic market for rice products and by-products, government subsidies on fertilizer, seed, and tractors and implements, and guaranteed minimum price support for farmers. The credit system has also received a boost from the government’s establishment of rice-processing credit schemes at 4% interest rate and a 15 years’ payback period to increase national rice-processing capacity.

Sources: FAO’s FAOSTAT database online and AQUASTAT database online, as of September 2012.

Return to world map