Smugglers conceal smuggled rice under pineapple
- RIFAN, OLAM, Elephant Group pledge increased production
By Ayo Fadimu
Following the closure of Nigeria’s borders by the Federal government to stop smuggling of rice especially from the neighbouring West African countries, Nigerian NewsDirect can authoritatively reveal that Nigeria’s local rice now floods the market across the country.
A visit to several markets across the country showed that many of the rice traders now have several brands of the Nigeria’s local rice on their tables.
They attributed this to the closure of the border by the Federal government.
Rice consumption in Nigeria has been rising steadily — about 5.6 million metric tons in 2011 and 6.9 million tons presently but market, production and policy limitations mean domestic production often fails to meet demand, and the increase is largely made up for with costly imports. Between 2012 and 2015, Nigeria imported $4 billion worth of rice in order to meet expanding consumption. Yet Nigeria actually has the capacity to be a net exporter of rice.
A rice trader in the popular Ile Epo market in Lagos who simply identified himself as Chinedu said that most of them now have is local rice because to get a bag of imported rice is very difficult.
However, our Correspondent noticed that some of the rice traders still have foreign rice on their tables.
“Some of us still have few bags (of rice) before the border was closed” a rice trader in Sango-Ota market who identified herself as Monsurat told Nigerian NewsDirect.
However, a visit to the rice depot in Cotonou by our correspondent showed that some smugglers still buy rice for onward transportation to Nigeria.
Nigerian NewsDirect investigation revealed that smugglers have devised new ways of transporting the rice through rivers that separate Nigeria from Benin Republic. After successfully transporting the rice to the Nigerian side, they now use pineapples to conceal the rice.
“Foreign rice is now very expensive because it is not easy to get. The road is very difficult now’ a rice seller in Ketu market who pleaded for anonymity told Nigerian NewsDirect.
As at Friday, a bag of local rice sells for local rice long grains sells for about N16,500 in Sango market, N17,000 in Ile Epo, Agege and Ketu markets.
However, Ofada rice is the most expensive rice in the market. It sells for about N24,000 per 50kg bag in almost all the markets visited.
The smuggled rice from Cotonou sells for N20,000 in Sango and Ota market while it sells for N21,000 in Ile Epo, Agege and Ketu markets.
But most Nigerians complain that Nigerian rice is not good to behold and taste bad.
“If you cook Nigerian rice, you have to consume it that day because it will get spoilt the following day’ a buyer who refused to mention her name told Nigerian NewsDirect.
Many others also interviewed by our correspondent complained that the quality of Nigerian rice is low but they all agreed that Nigeria must start from somewhere to have self sufficiency in food production.
“But do we have capacity to feed ourselves?” Chinedu asked. In an exclusive interview with Nigerian NewsDirect, , the Chairman of Elephant group, Dr Tunji Owoeye said the nation has capacity to feed her citizens especially in the area of rice production.
He also acknowledged that the demand for local rice has increased tremendously since the border was closed and he urged the Federal government to sustain the closure of the borders for the development of the local rice industry.
”Without any doubt it has increased demand for our products and reduced our stock holding cost considerably This is assisting most operators across the value chain to meet our commitment The boarder closure should be sustained” Owoeye said.
”This is to encourage local production and motivate us to increase our investment in the value chain Also for policy stability we can see absolute political will from government now Consumers should make sacrifices for now by patronizing only local production within the next one year gap will be closed between production and consumption if this ban is sustained. We plan to increase our capacity across the federation if this is upheld and we begin to plan for export in the medium term. The impact on health of Nigerians cannot be overlooked as this will increase the life expectancy of our teeming consumers considering the nutrition value in our locally but very competitive quality We salute the President of Nigeria Mohammadu Buhari ,the CG Customs and Nigerian Security operatives for this incredible and bold moves to defend the economy of our Great nation ” he added
On his part, the Vice President Corporate and Government Relations, Olam Nigeria, Ade Adefeko said the company is enhancing domestic food security through scaling up rice cultivation. He said Olam has developed a 13,500 hectare fully irrigated paddy farm on greenfield site in Ondorie, Nasarawa State and that the yield is close to 10 MT per hectare (over two annual crop cycles), based on four varieties of high-yield rice tested with the West African Rice Development Association. Furthermore, 4,450 hectares are already under cultivation, with a further 3,000 hectares on target for 2018-19. Adefeko also disclosed that up to 1000 workers are employed on the farm depending on seasonality.
He added that at the heart of the rice farm is a mechanised rice milling facility which includes the state of the art mill incorporates Satake milling technology and Italian par boiling technology.
In order to increase production and increase quality of production, Adefeko added that “The rice-growing communities in Nasarawa, Benue, Taraba and Kaduna States are supported by OLAM with group formation, training and all agri-inputs on credit in order to improve their own paddy yields and revenues with assured buy back system at the prevailing market prices”.
Also, in an exclusive interview with Nigerian NewsDirect, the Deputy National Secretary, of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria. Alhaji Iliyasu Awodi, also noted that there is sharp decrease in rice smuggling but disagreed that it has affected the demand for local rice. “Before the government took the measure people have already taken to consume our local rice for its taste and health benefit” he said.
On the capacity of the rice farmers to meet the demand of the local consumption, Illiyasu said the local producers can comfortably produce rice to meet the country’s demand as RIFAN intends to register 900000(Nine hundred thousands) farmers soon.
“Our advice to the government is that all our farmers registered for next cropping season be allowed to fully participate in the Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP)/Government to further provide rice farmers with N200 model rice processing machines as grant to increase our capacity to meet the country’s demand”
The Spokesman of the Nigerian Customs Service, Joseph Attah told our Correspondent that he will pass the outcome of the Nigerian NewsDirect investigative report on rice smuggling to appropriate quarters for necessary action.
In the meantime, rice merchants in Benin Republic have pleaded with the Nigerian authorities to open the borders as they solely depend on Nigeria to sell their products.
“You can see that things are very difficult here. The closure of the border has affected us. Please help us to beg Nigerian President to open the borders” one of the Rice Traders told our Correspondent in Cotonou.