Smugglers are killing our business- OLAM, Rice farmers

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…as 70% of rice in markets are foreign-Survey

…CBN, NIRSAL disagree

By Ayo Fadimu

The Rice farmers under the auspices of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) have cried out over the nefarious activities of rice smugglers saying it is killing the multi billion naira investment in the country just as the Olam Nigeria Limited, an indigenous rice producing company has berated the activities of the smugglers.

In an exclusive chat with with Nigerian NewsDirect, Vice President Corporate and Government Relations, OLAM Nigeria Limited, Ade Adefeko said that activities of the smugglers since December is alarming and has become worrisome to local rice investors.

According to Adefeko, ”There is rampant smuggling across the borders which have intensified since December. Millers are unable to sell anything as cheap imported rice is flooding the markets. Margins are non existent for the millers in the current situation”.

He blamed increased activities of the smugglers on  complascent on the part of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) but the National Public Relations Officer of NCS, Joseph Attahrefuted the claim. He said his men is winning the battle against the smugglers despite different tactics being deployed by the smugglers.

“We have lost some of our men in this battle and we want the Rice Farmers to appreciate the sacrifice our officers go through to police the extensive borders of this country”

Despite interventions of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) via the Anchors Borrowers Programme (ABP) on the rice sub-sector of the Nigerian economy, over seventy percent (70%) of rice in several markets are foreign or imported.

“All our warehouses and available places are filled up with seized smuggled rice. We even have to make makeshift places to keep them” Attah said.

“In fact, the Federal Government recently gave a directive that rice and other relief materials in the warehouses should be distributed to orphanages and Internally Displaced People Camps to address the plights of the victims as well as to free the warehouses

Recently, an online PR portal carried out a three-week survey conducted across the country, the team observed that foreign rice such as Mama Gold, Royal Stallion, Rice Master, Caprice, Falcon Rice and Basmati are sold alongside Nigerian rice namely: Umza and Fursa Crown from Kano, Mama Happy from Niger, Labana Rice from Kebbi, Olam Rice from Nasarawa, Abakaliki Rice from Ebonyi, Ofada Rice from Ogun State, Swomen Dama from Plateau, Lake Rice of Lagos/Kebbi States among others.

The survey covered Singer Market Kano; Utako Market, Abuja; Terminus Market Jos; Mile 3 Market Port-Harcourt; Main Market, Onitsha; Ogbete Market in Enugu, G-Cappa Market, Lagos and Jimeta Main Market – Yola.

It showed that the dealers buy local rice at about N13,000 per 50kg bag, while they sell it to customers for between N15,500 to N16, 000. The same merchants pay about N11,000 for the smuggled foreign rice and sell to consumers between N17,500 and N19,000 per bag.

Speaking on the disparity between the cost of local rice and smuggled foreign rice, Paul Nwadike, a rice distributor at Ogbete market in Enugu said: “My brother, let me tell you that gains we receive from selling foreign rice are more than the local rice because local rice is costlier.”

“Tell them to bring the cost of local rice down”, he pleaded.

Auwal Mukhtar, a dealer in Singer Market Kano declared that: “There is more market for us in foreign rice because it’s cheaper.”

Another rice merchant Mustafha in Utako Market Abuja noted: “I try as much as possible to buy foreign rice because my customers prefer them and they are cheap’, he said.

However, CBN Director of Corporate Communications, MrIsaac Okorafor, disagreed that foreign rice dominate Nigerian market.

“I don’t know the parameters used in the survey in terms of quantity of rice both foreign and local. But I can assure you that Nigerians would not like to go back to the dark days of rice importation”, the CBN spokesperson said.

Similarly, the Managing Director of Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural (NIRSAL), AliyuAbdulhameed disagreed that the Nigerian government is not doing enough to help local investors. He promised to forward the incentives by the Federal Government to the Rice Millers today.

NIRSAL was created by the CBN to stimulate the flow of affordable finance and investments into the agricultural sector by de-risking the agribusiness finance value chain, fixing agricultural value chains, building long-term capacity and institutionalising incentives for agricultural lending.

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