• May 12, 2021

Border Closure: Nigerians Groan As Price Of Local Rice Skyrockets

NIGERIA is Africa’s leading consumer of rice, presumed to be one of the la rgest producers of rice on the continent and one of the largest importers of the product in the world.

Rice is an important food crop. It is an essential crop for it is mainly small-scale producers who sell 80 per cent of the total production and consume only 20 per cent. Rice which remains a staple food in Nigeria generates more income for Nigerian farmers than any other food crop in the country as almost seven million tonnes is consumed annually.

The wide acceptance of rice as a regular item on most families’ menu list in the country is
responsible for the huge amount of money that has over the years been expended on it’s
importation.

For instance, Nigeria imported about 17 million tonnes of rice in the five years preceding the present administration. As it is often said, necessity is the mother of invention; smugglers
adopt various methods to illegally bring the product into the country.

The abundance of arable land without capacity in terms of finance, necessary infrastructure and agricultural technology to maximise the potential of farmers remains a serious setback militating against the growth of the very important industry.

A once thriving sector that had fed the nation was abandoned to the whims and caprices of importing over-processed products that add no value to the country’s existence but filling malnutrition.

Since the assumption of office of the present administration in 2015, it has introduced policies aimed at boosting local agricultural production and reducing the country’s dependence
on crude oil, which provides some 90 per cent of its foreign exchange. Part of these plans include making Nigeria self sufficient in rice and other agricultural products, such as palm oil.

The local production of rice, Nigeria’s most popular staple food increased between 2013
and 2017 to 8.9 million tonnes. But this is still is not enough to meet the demand of the
country’s ever-growing population which is currently estimated at 200 million people.

However, following the announcement by the Federal Government of the partial closure
of its border with Benin Republic over a month ago to curb rice smuggling, which it
said was threatening the country’s attempt to boost local production, Nigerians have been
lamenting the resultant like in the price of local rice which they say is becoming unbearable
considering the dwindling economic fortune in the country.

According to an opinion poll conducted by the Nigerian Tribune on Facebook, which as
of the time of filing this report had received over 600 comments, out of which few were
randomly picked for the purpose of this report, majority of the respondents posited that Nigeria as a country has not attained a reasonable level of food sufficiency, hence
the ban on imported rice is uncalled-for.
They are argued that if a country has to ban the importation of an important food item
such as rice, it must have reached a level that it produces more than the people of the country
can consume before taking such action.

According to them, the reverse is the case of Nigeria which they said is yet to meet up
with the required quality and quantity of rice needed by its people. Some of them shared their thoughts with the Nigerian Tribune on availability of rice and price following the closure of the Benin Republic/Nigerian border against importation of foreign rice.

Omobo Clement Aladeloye said: “This is the worst period in the history of Nigeria. From N8,000 to N24,000 per 50 kg bag of rice. And the change continues. They closed border because of rice. Is rice the only problem of Nigeria?”

Bashir Alabede Salahudeen, from Sepeteri town in Saki East Local Government Area of Oyo State, said: “We cannot find local rice but foreign contraband rice is N17,000.”

Prince Adedayo Osimokun, from Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, stated that: “50kg of rice is sold for N20,000 in Ijebu-Ode. I once wrote about this that there should be price control; if not,
the manufacturers will take advantage of the current situation at the detriment of the helpless
masses”

Wisdom Hart Eleba, from Port Harcourt, Rivers State said that a 50kg bag of imported rice
costs N23,000, while the local rice is sold for N18,500.

“In Kaduna, local rice is N15,000, while foreign rice is sold for between N16,500 and N17,000 depending on the make,” Akande Maruf Ajibola, said.

Dauda Ojewola, from Lagos told the Nigerian Tribune that 50kg local rice costs N17,000 at Daleko market, Lagos, while Otunba Clement from Jos, Plateau State, said it costs N22,000 in Jos.

Jimmy Sunday Iyamah, from Kogi State said: “Money no dey for bag again. Na cup we dey
measure here for Kogi State” Kabiru Abubakar from Illela, Sokoto State, said that a 50kg bag
of imported rice costs N15,000.

Balogun Fatimah Damilola said: “The price difference is not really the issue. Nothing stops us from patronising our local rice. But it just has to meet up with the right quality.

“Some complain that it does not ha ve taste, while others complain about too many stones
and chaff. Our local farmers need to improve on their production and not just take undue
advantage of the dwindling economic situation of the country to like the price of theirproducts”.

Francis Webnet from Okigwe, Imo State said: “A bag of imported rice costs N15,600. The hunger is too much in Nigeria.”

Gideon Akinwale, from Ibadan, Oyo State, observed that:”Nigerian rice is sold at N18,000 at Orita-Merin market, Ibadan and it is not up to 50kg. According to measurement, it is between 45 and 47kg.”

Babana Goni Ibrahim, told the Nigerian Tribune that 50 kg imported rice is sold for N25,000, while local rice goes for N17,500 in Maiduguri.

McEvarest Xavier, said: “We bought same rice N7,000 and N9,000 sometime in recent
past. What is the point in asking this question when we all know it has not dropped back to
that price?”

Another respondent, Aminu Usman Aliyu from Bauchi, said: “The local rice feels bad to our taste because we were used to the foreign rice; but I think we will soon get used to it. The government needs to make available fertilisers, chemicals and go a step further to mechanise our agricultural sector.”

In his own comment, Uzoma Michael Sunday said: “For a bag of rice to be costlier than
minimum wage and people are still happy is one thing that still baffles me.

“Why must local rice cost more than N7,000? Did the farmer pay import duty? Or does local
rice need escort to get to its destination? Why are we heartless in this country?”
Meanwhile, in a recent interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the vicepresident, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), South-West, Mr Victor Korede,
said the border closure would add a lot of economic benefits to the country as well as
create opportunities for farmers to produce more rice and to have easy access to markets.

SOURCE: TRIBUNE

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