Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The federal government’s border closure, increased surveillance by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Anchors Borrowers Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have dropped the volume of foreign rice in Nigerian markets.

A report released on Sunday by Economic Confidential puts the figure at 37 percent, down from 70 percent as at March/April 2019.

Foreign rice such as Mama Gold, Royal Stallion, Rice Master, Caprice, Falcon Rice and Basmati have reduced in the market, while Nigerian rice including Umza and Fursa Crown from Kano, Mama Happy from Niger, Labana Rice from Kebbi, Olam Rice from Nasarawa, Abakaliki Rice from Ebonyi, Ofada Rice from Ogun State, Swomen Dama from Plateau, Lake Rice of Lagos/Kebbi States are dominating.

The survey covered Utako Market, Abuja; Terminus Market Jos; Mile 3 Market Port-Harcourt; Main Market, Onitsha; Ogbete Market in Enugu, G-Cappa Market, Lagos; Jimeta Main Market, Yola and Singer Market in Kano.

Dealers now buy local rice at about N14,000 per 50kg bag, while they sell to customers between N16,500 and N18,000. Hitherto, they bought smuggled foreign rice at N15,000 and sold to consumers between N22,500 and N25,000 per bag.

Mrs. Angela Okafor, a rice distributor at Ogbete market in Enugu, said: “I stopped selling foreign rice. Customs are now everywhere, that is why I don’t have it again. You can see only Nigerian rice here and I am making a profit.”

Ahmed Sule, a merchant in Singer Market Kano, recalled that “There was demand and profit for us in foreign rice because it is cheaper. But the government are removing foreign rice from the market. I only sell local rice now”

Another merchant, Hajia Rilwanu in Utako Market, Abuja, said: “I used to buy foreign rice to sell, but they have been scarce. So, I rely on Nigerian rice since last year”.

At Jos, Port-Harcourt and Onitsha markets, the rice traders gave similar responses.

CBN Director of Corporate Communications, Isaac Okoroafor, agreed that the volume of rice importation into Nigeria had drastically declined.

Okorafor noted that since the bank stopped allocation of foreign exchange for the commodity, there has been a massive production of high-quality Nigerian rice in most of the states.

Spokesperson of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Joseph Attah, stressed: “The partial border closure by the federal government has boosted local capacity in rice production; it is creating job opportunities and generating huge revenue to the national coffer.

“The border closure has also addressed the challenging issue of trans-border crime and criminalities fuelled by non-compliance with ECOWAS Protocol on the transit of goods by neighbouring countries.

“All our warehouses and available places were filled with seized smuggled rice. The federal government recently gave a directive that rice and other relief materials in warehouses should be distributed to orphanages and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps”.

The National Chairman of Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Maifata expressed optimism that “the level of smuggling foreign rice will soon get to “a zero level”.

“The closure has helped our local processing industry to work at full capacity and the farmers are able to sell all that they produce. This has encouraged more people to join rice farming”.

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