Despite ‘self-sufficiency’ claim, Nigerians battling with soaring price of rice

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The declaration by the President of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Aminu Goronyo, few weeks back, that the country is now self-sufficient in rice production, could be perceived as a soothing balm to the already distraught Nigerians, who are struggling to survive this harsh living condition.

Goronyo, who spoke in Kaduna, during the inauguration of sale of rice paddy to millers, said the country’s local rice production has increased from two million tonnes in 2015 to nine million tonnes in 2021.

The local rice production, which increased by 77.8 per cent and valued at $4.05b was attributed to the Federal Government’s intervention through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).

“Before the coming of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in 2015, we used to produce just about two million metric tonnes of rice paddies yearly.

“Today, we can boast of nine million metric tonnes yearly; there is a clear difference and now we can boldly say that Nigeria is self-sufficient in rice,’’ he said.

However, Nigerians, especially industry watchers, traders, consumers and stakeholders in the rice value chain are worried that the so-called breakthrough does not reflect in the current price of the commodity.

Based on The Guardian survey, it was revealed that in 2015 when the country produced a meager two million tonnes, the price of the commodity was cheaper, available and affordable.

Reports have it that the price of a 50kg bag of imported rice was sold between N8, 567 and N8, 700, while the local rice was lesser, while the price of a paint bucket measurement was N800 across markets.

Currently, when Nigeria has supposedly increased its production to nine million tonnes, when the price is expected to drop, it has gradually hit the rooftop.

As at last Wednesday, according to the global rice market, the price of a 50kg bag of rice in Abuja was between N23, 000 to N25, 000; between N23, 000 to N26, 500 in Lagos; N23, 000 to N25, 000 in Plateau State; N24, 000 to N27, 000 in Kwara State and N23, 500 to N26, 500 in Rivers State.

A 25kg bag was sold between N13, 000 to N14, 000 in Lagos and N11, 500 to N13, 000 in Sokoto State.

The 1kg of brown rice, popularly called Ofada is between N1, 500 and N2, 000, while a 50kg bag is sold for N55, 000 and N60, 000.

Aside this, it is gathered that the country is still facing two million tonnes deficit of the grain as local consumption has reached seven million tonnes. This development, industrial analysts said are responsible for reliance on smuggled rice from Benin Republic to meet the demand target.

It was learnt that despite government’s restriction on importation of the produce, two million tonnes are smuggled from the neighbouring country.

According to a data by Index Mundi, a global trade portal on import and export, in 2020 alone, a total of 1.56 million tonnes of the grain valued at N350b ($780m) were smuggled to Nigeria’s neighbouring ports.

Efforts to verify this from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) did not yield any result as the ministry directed The Guardian to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

Though NCS promised to send the data, but as at the time of filing this report, they are yet to fulfill their promise.

As Nigerians struggle to put the staple food on their tables like before, many questions are agitating their minds why its price is gradually becoming exorbitant.

The Chairman of Rice Farmers Association in Kebbi State, Muhammad Augie, who noted that rice is the cheapest in the country compared with other commodities, said there are several factors contributing to the rising price of the commodity.

“When rice was within the range of N10, 000 in 2015, fertiliser was selling for N5, 000 or less, the input for irrigation was selling at N16, 000. Now, prices of inputs have gone up to over 200 per cent and it is not only rice that is costly now, if you compare the price of everything from that year till now, you’ll discover that the prices have increased.

“The value of naira is different from then, so those are some of the factors. Again, some people are sabotaging efforts of government to ensure we produce what we eat; they stockpile local rice to create artificial scarcity. There are many factors contributing to this development.

“If you compare the price of rice with other commodities, you’ll discover that rice is the cheapest in Nigeria, a bag of maize is currently selling for N130, 000, a bag of cassava too has increased, likewise the cost of everything. Despite this, rice is still among the cheapest food in Nigeria.”

Augie said in advanced countries, government subsidy price of input for farmers, noting that reverse is the case in Nigeria as farmers get input at market price.

He added that issues of high cost of transportation, cost of fuel and irregular power supply and others are actually impacting price of rice.

The National Deputy President of RIFAN, Segun Atto, who confirmed that rice production has increased tremendously, said a lot of factors are associated with the price increase. “One of the factors is the security crisis across the country. Two, climate change – the issue of flooding, dearth of rain and others have negatively affected farmers productivity. Three, the issue of saboteurs who are still bent on importing rice, contrary to government’s position that we should encourage homegrown agriculture, where we grow what we eat and eat what we grow.

“If we believe in that slogan and the philosophy associated with it, we should know that we have arable land that can give us what we want. There are lots of cabal in the country sabotaging government’s efforts and anywhere such exists it will be hard to see any progress.

“Do you know that some people rented warehouses and stockpiled locally produce rice and keep telling people that nothing is happening in the rice sector? How long are we going to do this? Another thing is that there is need for funds for farmers to cultivate maximally, if these issues are addressed the price of the commodity will come down.”



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Source: The Guardian

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