Given the importance of irrigation for rice production, this study compared the technical efficiency of irrigated and rain-fed rice (Oryza sativa) farms in the Upper Niger River Basin and Rural Development Authority (UNRBDA), Nigeria. Primary data were collected from 300 irrigators and 325 rain-fed rice producers. Applying the stochastic frontier Cobb–Douglas production function, net income analysis and Likert scale rating techniques, the study found that irrigated scheme increased marginal factor productivity and profitability. The study revealed the existence of large technical inefficiency in rain-fed farms when compared with irrigated farms. This suggests that there is room for output gains through technical efficiency improvement in the rain-fed system. The mean value of the marginal physical product of inputs (VMPPX) in the irrigated farms (₦2.32) was more than that of rain-fed farm (₦1.67). Thus, if the average producers in the rain-fed are to achieve the technical efficiency level of the average producer in the irrigated farms, they can realize 38% output gains. Similarly, the mean net farm income (NFI) of ₦62,280.00 per ha in the irrigated farm was more than double of that of rain-fed farms ₦22,391.00. The partial regression coefficients for the individual production factors (β1) and (β3) for labour input (X1) and other variable inputs (X3), respectively, were positive and significant at 1% level, suggesting that the partial elasticity of crop output with respect to labour and other costs was higher in the irrigated farms than in the rain-fed farms. The Likert scale rating techniques showed that the poor knowledge of irrigation techniques, insufficient water for irrigation during the dry season, high cost of labour and lack of access to credit were the critical constraints preventing the rain-fed rice producer from joining the irrigation scheme. In view of this, rice irrigators should be encouraged to train more rain-fed farmers on some rudiments of irrigation techniques. They should also be linked to the sources of finance. Water Users Association (WUA) should be established in communities within the scheme areas for effective communication between farmers and the officials of the UNRBDA. Decision on the allocation of resources to Fadama sites including water should be given to WUA to strengthen the membership of the organization, while the government officials serve as supervisory and advisory body.