Despite huge investments made into the agriculture sector and specially rice production in Nigeria over the past 3 years, Nigeria will return in 2019 as the world’s largest importer of rice.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Nigeria’s rice imports will jump 13% next year to 3.4 million metric tons, making Nigeria the world’s biggest rice importer after China.

“China and Nigeria are projected to remain the largest rice importing countries in 2019, followed by the EU, Cote d’Ivoire, and Iran,” the USDA said in its latest Rice Outlook released Tuesday, Bloomberg reports.

“Nigeria and Egypt are projected to account for the bulk of the 2019 import increase,” the outlook noted.

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The forecast growth is a setback for the Nigerian government, which plans to stop rice imports by the end of this year to save foreign currency.

Production had increased more than 50% since 2012 to 3.7 million tons last year. But domestic demand rose 4% to 6.7 million tons in the 2017-18 year that ended in May.

But beyond increasing demand, rice farmers in Nigeria have reported a drop in output since last year due to a combination of higher input costs, insecurity and widespread flooding in the main growing regions.

“The rain has not been favorable to rice farmers this year,” Mohammed Sahabi, chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria in Kebbi, one of the main rice-growing states, told Bloomberg by phone. “We lost more than 20,000 hectares of unharvested rice this year in Kebbi alone.”

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