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EDITORIAL

Curbing Rice Smuggling

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Local rice farmers and producers have decided to engage in price war in order to confront smuggling of foreign rice into the country. The hope is that with this policy, they may gain more access into the market and compete with the cheaper foreign rice. About two years after the ban on its importation, smuggling of rice into the country has continued to be on the rise.

Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RFAN) and Rice Producers Association of Nigeria (RPAN) recently disclosed plans to crash the price of 50kg of locally produced rice from N15, 000 currently to N10, 000 before Christmas.

The Farmers claim to have produced a lot and that has helped the cost of paddy rice to reduce from about N11,000 that it used to be to N8,000 now. They also said that the cost of milled rice has been reducing over the years and to curb smuggling, local rice price will come down further. In this process, the cost reduction in paddy production will definitely warrant a decrease in the price of milled rice.

This newspaper commends the resolution of the rice farmers and millers because we believe policy makers can make the price of local rice competitive with that of smuggled ones. It will also encourage farmers and millers to produce more and make rice affordable to the average consumer of the product.

We believe that for the policy to work, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) must step up its anti-smuggling activities. Nigeria’s fledgling local rice industry is facing the grim threat of collapse as toxic foreign rice dominate most of the country’s major food markets. Across the country, rice smugglers are having a field day filling the markets and stores with imported rice whose quality and safety are as questionable as the unscrupulous elements that brought them.

Rice, according to the NCS,  is the most smuggled item into the country, constituting 70 per cent of all rice products in the local markets and sucking away  scarce foreign exchange. Despite the outright ban on rice imports, it appears smugglers are always finding ways to circumvent measures to halt their illegal trade.

Investors in Nigeria have made enormous financial commitment in the rice sub-sector. Unfortunately, the only threat to the industry’s total development, is smuggling. According to the farmers, over one million metric tonnes of rice, which is equivalent to about 20,000,000 bags of 50kg rice, have been smuggled into Nigeria in the last three months.

LEADERSHIP investigations also showed that the smuggled rice usually came into the country through Niger and the Republic of Benin. For instance, in Ogun and Lagos states, it was gathered that the traders bought a bag of rice at between N5,000 and N6,000 in the Republic of Benin, as the contraband was usually transported to Nigeria through the Seme and Idi-Iroko borders.

Nigeria currently loses huge revenues, foreign exchange, and jobs to this menace, as Nigeria rice processing companies are shutting down because of their inability to gain market access. Findings also revealed that most of international borders in the country have been converted to smugglers route, and the markets are filled with smuggled foreign rice.

The most worrisome issue, in our opinion, is that the imported rice brands are loaded with deadly chemicals, repackaged with fake production and expiry dates, and shipped in after over 20 years in foreign silos.

We therefore urge the government to step up efforts to curb smuggling into the country because unless the menace of rice smuggling is totally eliminated, local rice industry will continue to be under serious danger of collapse. The nation is losing huge revenues, foreign exchange and jobs to the menace as Nigerian Rice processors are shutting down due to inability to gain market access as a result of the influx of foreign rice into the local markets.

 

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