Nigeria Rice Output Seen Down This Year as Floods Hit Fields

(Bloomberg) -- Floods from swollen rivers in Nigeria’s grain-producing regions washed away rice farms leaving the prospect of lower output in the world’s third-largest importer.

At least 21,000 hectares (51,892 acres) with 168,000 metric tons unharvested rice were washed away in the past month in Kebbi, one of the country’s main rice-growing states, according to Mohammed Sahabi, the state chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria. Similar damage was reported by farmers in three other states, including Niger, Kano and Katsina.

“We cannot yet say how much we might lose this season,” Sahabi said by phone from the northwestern city of Birnin Kebbi. “But I can tell you that the flooding will very likely affect production this year.”

At least 100 people died in floods in central and southern Nigeria as torrential rains caused the West African country’s two main rivers to overflow in the worst flooding in six years, according to the National Emergency Management Agency. Other crops such as sorghum, millet and corn were also affected by the flooding, farmers said.

Nigeria’s rice production increased more than 50 percent over the past five years to 3.7 million tons last year, meeting a little over half of domestic demand, which rose 4 percent to 6.7 million tons in the 2017-18 year that ended in May. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation with almost 200 million people.

Rice imports are set to increase to 2.9 million metric tons in the 2018-19 season from 2.6 million tons in 2017-18, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Reasons cited included conflict, population growth and more people giving up traditional coarse grains in their meals in favor of rice.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.