If you are looking for lucrative business ideas in Nigeria, you need to seriously consider entering the rice farming business – which is undoubtedly the most profitable business in the Nigerian agricultural sector.  Rice farming business in Nigeria is set to grow year-on-year.

Annually, Nigerians consume around 5.5 million tonnes of rice, of which 3.6 million tonnes are locally produced – mostly by farmers for personal consumption. Currently, we spend roughly ₦365bn per year importing the remaining 1.9 million tonnes, because local production is unable to satisfy the huge demand for rice in Nigeria. This is great news for entrepreneurs in Nigeria, as it presents legitimate money making opportunities. This figure also makes Nigeria the world’s largest importer of rice. So there is a genuine demand, and genuine opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses in Nigeria.

Considering the fact that Nigeria has a huge market for rice, you have the chance to invest in the farming, processing, and sale of rice. You can equip your business to cultivate and harvest rice, construct rice mills for milling and processing, or working within wholesale distribution. The avenues and opportunities are endless.

Regardless of what area you choose to specialize in, it is essential that you understand the cultivation and harvesting process, so that you can recognise if you are working with low or high quality product.

How to Start a Rice Farming Business in Nigeria

Choose healthy rice seeds
The healthier your seeds are, the greater your chances are of ensuring the highest possible yield is achieved. You should choose an improved variety and select the right seeds based on the cultivation environment. Do not plant seeds in an indiscriminate manner and go for only the best variety seeds. You need to choose the seeds manually for a good rice production.

I would advise that you buy your seeds from a company that is licensed and registered with The National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) who are responsible for regulating the Seed Industry in Nigeria.  This will ensure that your seeds have been produced and distributed to a high quality, therefore increasing your chances of a high yield.

Selecting good quality seed will help to:
1. Improve yield by 5 – 20%
2. Improve germination by more than 80%
3. Increase resistance to disease and pest attacks
4. Produce consistent plant size
5. Decrease weed problems

Produce rice seedlings in a nursery
Prepare your seedbed and plant seeds there to be raised in a nursery. Cover the soil with a transparent polythene sheet so that the environment maintains its temperature whilst avoiding soil borne diseases. Your yield can be significantly decreased if transplanted rice is attacked by nematodes and soil borne pathogens.

Choice of Land
The land itself is the most essential capital asset for nay rice farming business in Nigeria, and its worth tends to vary on the basis of the drainage facilities, type of soil and location. Rice is generally the crop of a small farmer and the average holding size is around 6 acres. You need a large space to set your project up and dry the paddy rice prior to harvesting.

1. Select a site in ecological zones where rice is grown traditionally
2. Choose fertile land with good water retention capacity (contain some clay and/or organic matter i.e. loamy soil).
3. If you have to grow rice for one or more consecutive years on the same land, get the advice of a reputable soil-testing agency.
4. Grow legumes after rice, and plough rice residues into the soil as organic matter and fertilizer.

Swampy land
In rice farming you have the option of planting rice in lowlands and uplands, and also in irrigated or swampy conditions. You can significantly reduce capital, and the hassles of irrigation by choosing swampy land for rice farming. The most common technique is to get swampy land and have it fully cleared. Use tractors to till the soil in a proper manner until the soil is prepared for actually transplanting your rice seedling.

However, it has been found that rice production is most productive on irrigated soil of lowland swamps. But this type of environment comes at a higher cost.

Manage the Soil Nutrients and Weeds
For a couple of months after transplanting the rice seedlings, you will need to remove weeds from the rice farm, and then implement a herbicide application regime to destroy any emerging weeds. Some people tend to apply herbicide twice prior to harvesting.

To boost the growth of rice seedlings, fertilizer is often applied. You should carry out extensive soil tests with specialists before any fertilizer is applied. Always aim to use an organic fertilizer and spray it in right amounts that have been specified. This will vary depending on soil, environment and the type of rice you are harvesting.

Each growth stage of the rice plant has a different nutrient need. Keeping this in mind, farmers must ensure that the rice plant gets the proper nutrients at the right time.

How to start a rice farming business in Nigeria

Improved plant and root growth on the Left — conventional rice, right.

Harvest the Crop
Within 4 months of the plantation, you will have your crop prepared for harvest. When the rice is matured, its color will change to light brown from green. You will then know that your crop is prepared for harvest.

Cost
The capital required for a rice farming business tends to vary based on its nature. You obviously need a sufficient amount of land for rice farming. Rice milling generally demands adequate workforce, equipment and machinery. Retailing and dealership of rice requires the lowest amount of capital investment. For a rice business, the initial expenses consist of supplies, basic equipment, delivery, packaging, transportation, operating costs and various other outlays.

It is equally important to factor in the storage costs to keep the products in a healthy condition. You can raise capital for rice business in various ways. Due to the land required, rice farming will require significant capital to launch. But costs can be reduced if you own land, or if you can go in to partnership with someone who owns land.

Due to the technical knowledge required to start and maintain a rice farm, detailed business planning, and research should be carried out before you start.

Potential Profits
In rice farming, the projected income also depends on the capital that is invested. The bigger the capital investment, the bigger the profits will be. If you start with huge capital, the returns on investment will be bigger, and faster due to having more efficient and effective machinery, storage and processes that can help you take advantage of opportunities, and high demand.

Despite this, due to Nigeria’s agricultural transformation agenda there is a rapid growth and competitive edge that is emerging in smaller mills. This can be linked to the increase in the amount of rice paddies being produced. Nigerian entrepreneurs and rice farmers are no longer in doubt that rice farming is a profitable business.

How to start a rice farming business in NigeriaThe big rice market in Nigeria, and the high costs and duties related with importing rice, make local production highly attractive. The Nigerian government has also introduced favorable incentives in order to promote local production. This has benefited local areas, for example, In Ekiti State, the small millers are starting operations with improved small scale equipment, growing at an estimated rate of about 10 to 15 new small mills per annum and mostly targeting the niche market of Ofada and Igbemo local rice.

Investment in Rice Farming in Nigeria
You know this area has huge potential when the richest man in Africa, Alioke Dangote, states that he plans to invest $1 billion in modern integrated rice mills and commercial rice farming in Nigeria. He has already acquired about 150,000 hectares of farming land in five of the states of Nigeria.

On a large scale, if you invest around $14 million in Nigeria today on an integrated rice mill, there will be 42 – 50% internal rate of return on your investment. You will need exactly a couple of years to return this investment amount.

But on a smaller scale, if you only spend $10 thousand on your rice farming business in Nigeria, you can get a 25-30% ROI within 1 ½ years from the time you float your venture. Rice farming is undoubtedly one of the most profitable, and lucrative business ideas in Nigeria.

How to start a rice farming business in NigeriaAs a wholesaler or distributor, you can obtain a bag of rice for ₦8,000 – ₦8,100 or possibly at a lower rate from your suppliers. A 110-pound (50 kg) bag of rice sells for any between ₦10,000 to ₦12,000 in Nigeria today. If you supply 50 rice bags in a single day at this rate, you will make a profit of 4000 X 50 = ₦200,000. Due to the instability of market price, the price can be higher or lower at any time.

What are Your Thoughts on Rice Farming Business in Nigeria?

Have you started or plan to start your own rice farming business in Nigeria?  What has been your experience?  Please share your thoughts or leave a comment to any questions you need answered.