LAGOS – Climate change and hoarders have been identified as factors that are responsible for the high cost of Nigerian rice especially during the festive season, experts say.
Before now, Nigeria was a net importer of rice spending billions of naira on importation which has in no small way adversely affected local production.
In order to reverse this, the government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) initiated the Anchors Borrowers Programme which was aimed to offer smallholder farmers credit facilities at a single digit interest rate in form of inputs.
Over a million rice farmers have since inception in 2016 benefitted from this initiative.
Despite this initiative, the prices of this staple food is still on the high side as many households stated that they could not celebrate the festive season the way they usually do due to the high cost of the commodity which is an important staple food in Nigeria.
Traders are also not left out of the lamentation as they argued that they recorded low sales during the festive season unlike before when they will be smiling to the bank.
Responding to this, Emmanuel Ijewere, Vice President, Nigeria Agribusiness Group, (NABG), said a lot of people are hoarding the commodity.
“The high price is artificial and Nigerians should not panic and start asking that rice be imported because local farmers are capable. Many of those hoarding rice will lose. We should encourage the farmers to produce and the price of rice will crash.
“I will suggest that the government should not do anything to interrupt business. What will happen is that a lot of people are hoarding and in the month of January many of them will discover that they have lost.
“Government should do nothing, people hoarded this thing during the Christmas celebration, you will also discovered that because many people distributed rice to people, not many rice would be bought because many people who collected even 20kg of rice they have not finish eating them, so by January the prices will come down by its own in a natural business way.
“Government must do everything to increase the production of rice in terms of hectrage of land to be cultivated and also improve the yield.
Speaking further, he called on the government to encourage the growing of rice, and help the farmers to improve the quality of their seedlings so that the yields can go up.
“It is an opportunity for us to do what we need to do; let the government leave the hoarders alone, and the economy will bring them back.”
Ijewere noted that the CBN should continue with what they are doing to encourage production of rice and also improve the value chain, which according to him would be good for Nigeria in the end.
Edobong Akpabio, an Agropreneur said the high cost of local rice can be traced to some factors such as demand and supply, stating that the demands for rice, especially during the festive period outstrips supply, adding that despite the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, the problem of insecurity and climate change affects the farmers and causes them losses.
She added that opening of the nation’s borders should not constitute a problem if the Customs service can work to ensure that rice smuggling is curtailed.
Akinade Samuel, Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Oyo state chapter in his view,noted that with the opening of the borders, people may tend to favour the consumption of the foreign rice.
“With this practice, the local farmers will begin to experience low patronage which may force the price of the locally produced rice down and finally discourage the farmers out of business. At the end of the day, the price of the imported rice will move up again and the farmers may return to the farm only when the price is high enough to cover the high cost of production and the profit component.
“What we are saying is that the government should operate a price stabilising policy, and such a policy should guarantee optimum profit to the farmers. State and local governments’ intervention are expected to complement that of the federal to make life easier for the farmers by guaranteeing smooth operation,” he said.
Segun Atho, National Deputy President of RIFAN stated that the government through the CBN has created an enabling environment for rice.
He said Godwin Emefiele, the CBN Governor should be commended for what they have done for rice farmers through the ABP.
Atho, however, said that saboteurs are trying to create artificial scarcity by increasing the price of Nigerian rice.
According to him, “the price crises we have today are created by traders and smugglers. I can tell you for sure that most of the so-called foreign rice in the markets are Nigerian rice re-bagged by the traders because they know Nigerians like foreign rice,” he said.
Victor Iyama, National President, Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria (FACAN), said a lot of rice was overtaken by flood and there is a little bit of shortage.
He said more states must get involved in growing rice that all states of the federation can actually grow rice.
“We should be more proactive, in those days more rice is even grown in the South, but look at today how many states in the south grow rice; before you will hear of Igbimo rice, Abakaliki rice, Edo rice and the likes.
“We should not restrict the growing of rice to Kebbi that is very prone to flood, a lot of the rice farms were damaged by flood this year and of course we should up our game in terms of yield per hectare,” he said.
On border reopening, Iyama said the security operatives especially the Customs must be up and doing and they must be made to do their job.
Iyama, however, said the CBN has tried its best, that the Anchors Borrowers Programme only covers some states.
“ABP is only covering some states. How many states of the federation does that ABP cover? Those are the things we should look at, like I said almost all the states in the federation can produce rice, they have to be more proactive, they have to cover more grounds for it to be really effective for the country to feel the impact,” he said.
Wale Oyekoya, an agriculturist and the CEO of Bama Farms Limited, said prices of rice will continue to rise due to the inconsistency of government policies.
“What has been the nation’s gain after closing the borders for over a year and abruptly just opened the borders without consideration to the consequences and after effect. All the gains of farmers during the closure of borders will now be eroded and back to square one.
“High prices also indicate that we are not producing enough to attain the food sufficiency. Our dependency on dollars is another major problem for us as everything sold in the market now has dollars coloration. What the government needs to do is to continue to support the farmers by allocating more farmlands; give funds directly to the farmers with a monitoring team and improve on the infrastructures of the rural areas.”
He added that the value chains with better technology of packaging will improve on the profits of the farmers.