SINGAPORE — Olam International Limited on July 14 celebrated the inauguration of its state-of-the-art rice mill at its rice farm in Nigeria’s Nasarawa State.

The integrated rice milling facility is situated at the heart of Olam’s 6,000-hectare greenfield irrigated and mechanized paddy farm, and will provide 36,000 tonnes of milled rice per year to the domestic market, contributing to the federal government’s goal to improve rice self-sufficiency. 

With 3,000 hectares already under cultivation and a further 3,000 hectares to be developed in 2015, the farm is expected to harvest two crops per year with four varieties of high-yield rice developed in partnership with the West African Rice Development Association.

Together the farm and the mill are expected to boost smallholder rice production in the region through a nucleus and outgrower farming model. Surrounding rice-growing communities are supported by Olam with training, pre-finance, agri-inputs and marketing linkages in order to improve their paddy yields and realizations, which are then purchased by Olam at a fair market price. 

Currently 3,000 farmers are engaged in the program, with a target of 16,000 by 2018. Ultimately, 20,000 smallholder farmers will supply 30%-40% of the mill’s capacity. The commercial farm itself employs up to 1,000 workers depending on seasonality, providing another source of training in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). The model was highlighted as a catalytic innovation in African agriculture by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2013.

“This mill, commissioned today by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, characterizes three important aspects of Olam’s commitment to the agricultural sector in Nigeria. Firstly, it demonstrates how large-scale corporate farms can work hand in hand with smallholders to help advance Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda and generate rural prosperity through local processing,” said Venkataramani Srivathsan, Olam’s managing director for Africa and Middle East. “Secondly, it underlines the country’s ability to grow high quality, nutritious rice that can enhance domestic food security by providing an alternative to imports. Thirdly, as Olam kicks off its 25th anniversary celebrations this month, this investment is a testament to our ongoing commitment to Nigeria, the country where Olam was founded.

“As we witness this inauguration, we are pleased to announce our plans to increase our acreage in Nasarawa up to 10,000 hectares. This will bring Olam’s total investment in the integrated farm and milling facility to over Naira 18 billion.”

“The private sector is responding strongly to our rice policy, as the number of rice mills has grown from just one three years ago to 18 today,” said President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan

Large mechanized rice farms like Olam’s 6,000-hectare farm will not only boost food production but also provide significant opportunities for jobs in rural areas, he said.