One of the oldest cereals believed to have been cultivated for over 5000 years is rice. It is one of the leading food crops in the world and the most consumed staple food in Nigeria.
A major distinguishing characteristic of rice is its persistent increase in demand by consumers regardless of their culture, gender or status in society.
With an annual production of over 3.7 million tons of milled rice, recent statistics have affirmed Nigeria as the largest consumer and producer of rice in Africa. Consequently, Egypt, succeeding as the second largest producer.
Basically, the factors to be considered before rice cultivation include the type of land, soil properties, geographical and ecological factors. All of these factors should be put into consideration as not all the varieties of rice can do well in every geographical zone. It is usually advisable to also source for high-quality seeds for maximal productivity.
Rice is best grown in lands with moderately high water holding-capacity or simply put, swampy lands. Heavy and muddy soils that can hold water are most desirable. It is best to prepare the lands for rice farming during the dry season before it begins to rain to avoid anything that could hinder the growth, quality or quantity of the rice seedlings.
The planting season for rice ranges between March and April, with an average of 3-4 months before harvest. However, there are a lot of processes involved in the cultivation of rice from planting to consumption. These include seed selection, land preparation, planting, crop management among others.
As regards its economic prospects, there is a continuous increase in the demand and supply of rice daily in Nigeria. It is a perfect investment opportunity for farmers thinking of the best crop to grow because increased production of rice will largely improve the economy. It is an important staple food due to its health benefit and being a major source of carbohydrate.
Varieties of rice including ofada rice, fadama rice, faro 44, lowland rice and upland rice are commonly planted in Nigeria. Rice can be boiled and consumed with sauce or be made into snacks such as fried stuffed rice balls, rice Krispies, rice pancakes, rice cakes, puffed rice etc.
In addition, rice can also be used to produce starch which can be used as industrial raw materials.