President Muhammadu Buhari in his New Year address said his administration will ban the importation of rice into the country in this year.
Rice import is not totally banned. The food staple is allowed to come into the country only through the seaports where duties are duly paid.
But government now said it will close all maritime and land boarders completely to rice – a news the farmers and processors received with cheers.
“Two years ago I appealed to people to go back to the land. I am highly gratified that agriculture has picked up, contributing to the government’s effort to re-structure the economy.
“Rice imports will stop this year. Local rice, fresher and more nutritious will be on our dishes from now on,” the President said in his 2018 New Year message to Nigerians on the first of January.
President Buhari also appealed to Nigerians who are still hesitant on the potential of agriculture to change their minds.
“I am today appealing to enterprising Nigerians with ideas and unemployed graduates and other able-bodied and literate men and women with ideas not to just sit and wait for employment from the government or the organized private sector. Great nations are built by enterprising people who turn their hands to anything that circumstances dictate,” he said.
However, the rice farmers and processors while happy are happy that the president has made a categorical statement on importation of rice, expressed worries over smuggling activities, which sometimes are allegedly aided by customs officials across the nation’s porous land borders.
They argued that smuggling was eroding the huge gains so far made in the rice industry.
Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Maifata, the national leader of Rice Processors of Nigeria, in a recent meeting with the country’s minister of agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, over the high cost of local rice recently in Abuja, expressed grave concern over what he called ‘continuing rice smuggling activities at the country’s borders.’
He lamented particularly that some staffers of the Nigerian Customs Service are complacent in the activities as they collect bribes to allow rice into the country through the land borders.
He said smugglers are offering even as low as N500 to bring in rice on motorcycles.
A similar position was expressed by the national leader of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria RIFAN, Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, who noted that if the trends continue without firm action from the government, it will weigh down the gains so far made, adding that “it is killing us.”
Many Nigerian and foreign investors in the country have been wailing over smuggling for a long time because they stressed that it threatens their investments and will make it extremely difficult to recoup their capital let alone make sustainable profits.
A rice farmer in Adani Local Government of Enugu State, Mr Benard Adi, stated that farmers are willing to go into rice production but the imported rice makes it difficult for them to compete fairly in the market because of the cost of production in the country which is still high in Nigeria.