Ofada rice, the popular delicacy, may get to dining tables at even cheaper prices, thanks to an initiative aimed at enhancing its production via solar energy.
Courtesy of a collaboration involving the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Nigeria Country Office and the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN), off-grid solar powered commercial agro-processing is transforming the rice processing industry.
A three-month construction period that ended April 2018 saw the installation of solar energy systems and equipment such as pre-cleaner, per boiler, dryer, miller and de-stoner to boost the processing of Ofada rice in Moloko Asipa, an agrarian community in Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State.
The project has reportedly increased the production capacity of the mill, which hitherto ran on diesel. Besides reducing production cost, the scheme has created employment opportunity especially among the youth in the community. A borehole was also constructed to supply water to the community at no cost.
Chief Executive Officer of Ofada Rice Agro-processing Mills Limited, operator of the facility, Mr. Ayodele Adenekan, said that since the solar plant was completed in April, all the equipment have been working round the clock on solar power.
He disclosed that, prior to the realisation of the project, the mill spent from N18,000 to N20,000 every month on diesel depending on the volume of rice to be processed. He added however that all that stopped since the project was completed.
“It has greatly increased our production, I now produce more at less cost,” he added.
Adenekan said the gesture has also led to job creation for youth in the community who have been engaged in the Ofada rice processing. He attributed this to the fact that the equipment installed doubled the capacity of what existed in the mill before.
He disclosed the equipment installed had also help to enhance the quality of Ofada rice processed at the mill. He commended the UNDP/ECN for bringing such an initiative to the community.
Asked on the next line of action after the UNDP/ECN gesture, Adenekan said he is now looking at how to export Ofada rice because of the high demand by Nigerians in the diaspora who cherish the delicacy.
Corroborating him, Mrs. Janet Adegboye who processes her rice harvest in the mill, commended the initiators of the project, saying processing her rice has become easy with the completion of the project.
“We are very happy with what UNDP/ECN has done for us,” she stressed.
Baale-General of Moloko Asipa, Mr. Nureni Kolawole Adesina, commended UNDP and ECN for the equipment installed that has made rice processing faster and cheaper. He said the facility has also provided employment opportunities for youth in the community who have been engaged in the mill.
He also expressed appreciation for the borehole provided for the community which, he stated, has eased water shortage challenges in the community.
“Water has been scarce in the community before now, we used to go long distances to fetch water to the palace, but this has stopped. It has been a blessing to the community and we are happy about it.”
The Nigerian rice sector has experienced some remarkable developments and growth in recent years. Both rice production and consumption in Nigeria have vastly increased. With rice now being a structural component of the Nigerian diet and rice imports making up an important share of Nigerian agricultural imports, there is considerable political interest in increasing the consumption of local rice.
One of the major constraints that have affected the development of Nigerian rice sector is the inability of the local rice to match the quality of imports. While majority of the mills (85%) are powered with fuel engines, 10% are using electric engines and four mills (5%) have invested in both types. Operators recognise that it is cheaper to run electric-powered mills than fuel-powered equipment but the erratic supply of electricity jeopardises the workshop operations.