Thursday, 14 July 2016

Stakeholders’ fault rice importation through land borders

By Gabriel Olawale

STAKEHOLDERS in the local rice industry have faulted the importation of the product into the country through land borders.

File: Rice-Smugglers intercepted by Customs
Executive Director, Nigeria Agriculture Development Watch, Dr. Johnson Idowu, one of the stakeholders, noted that the decision by government to open land borders for the importation of rice was a colossal error because it has increased smuggling of the commodity and made the growing of the crop unprofitable.

“Let us do some elementary geography. Nigeria is bounded in the North, West and South by Niger Republic, Republic of Benin, and Cameroon respectively. None of these countries is a rice producing nation per se. So what is the rationale behind opening the borders for rice importation from these countries? Why would Nigeria want to continue to favour neighbours in terms of job creation and revenue generation from rice import by adjusting its policies in order to drive revenue generation, and to make businesses return?”, he added .

He urged government to first allow CBN approve FORM M, then revisit the benchmark, duty or levy, or do all, adding that this would ensure that genuine business men can continue to import rice while the backward integration program of the government runs concurrently.

Coordinator of Nigeria Agribusiness Group, Mr. Emmanuel Ijewere, said that the story of smuggling of rice in Nigeria is historical because it has been going on for a very long time and has destroyed the country’s industries. “Because it has destroyed our local industries and the kind of story we are hearing now that the business of smuggling of rice has increased is a bad omen.

Neighbouring countries

“Let the Customs take decision, should we destroy our industries and provide jobs for our neighbouring countries or to provide jobs for our own people in Nigeria?

“We cannot run away from that, it is simple as that, Nigeria needs to take a decision. Nigerian farmers have suffered for long and are getting tired”, he said.

General Manager of Ebonyi State based rice company, Oyus Brown Rice, Mr. Francis Okpani, said smuggling of rice into the country has affected the genuine business people who are willing to contribute to the growth of the economy.

“Now, we are not producing enough to feed ourselves, we need more rice in the country but not through smuggling. The imported rice is not cheaper and affordable for some people in the country as price has gone up to N20, 000 per bag from N8, 000”, he said.

Managing Director of Abibcom farms, Mr. Habib Stephen Temitope, urged government to intervene now or the effect would be unbearable for Nigerians who have invested hugely in the rice industry.

It will be recalled that many companies like Elephant Group, Dangote Group, Olam and others have invested a lot of money in Nigerian rice, setting up processing mill which have created thousands of jobs.

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