- Processors fret, seek strict action
Foreign rice smuggling into Nigeria is back in full swing after its decimation by security forces sometime ago, Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RPAN) alerted the Federal Government at the weekend. Unless government rises to the occasion and arrests the trend quickly, RPAN said the little gains recorded in local rice value chain initiative would be eroded
About N3.4 trillion has been invested in the entire rice value chain production across the country with millions employed. Addressing the media in Abuja, Director-General of RPAN, Andy Ekwelem, appealed to the Federal Government to criminalise sales of foreign rice in the country by bringing perpetuators to book.
He added that, unless influx of foreign rice is controlled by the government, all the rice mills in the country would collapse while so many jobs would be lost.
He stated that rice value chain sub sector had engaged about 13 million Nigerians on direct employment, adding that the number of people that would lose their jobs to the activities of smugglers would be much, if not abated. Ekwelem said at a time, the government tackled the menace of rice smuggling, but immediately after the activities of #EndSARS movement and reopening of borders by the Federal Government, the markets were flooded with foreign rice. ”
We have said it many times on the need for government to criminalise sales of foreign rice in the markets and supermarkets. Rice is number one on the list of prohibited products in which CBN places forex restriction on. “It is assumed that any rice you see in this country now, in the markets, shops and even in your homes that is not Nigerian made rice, it is smuggled into the country.
The country is losing revenue because these smugglers are not paying the right duties to bring the rice into the country and this ugly development is killing our economy.
“We want a law that will empower law enforcement agencies to go to markets and shops to arrest anyone found with foreign rice because their action amounts to economic sabotage.
When that is done, people will be discouraged from buying from these people that smuggled rice into the country. We need to take drastic measures against smugglers as well as those selling the products. “Smuggling is taking a toll on rice value chain.
The economy is in danger. If not well tackled, there will be job loss, criminality will increase and the entire value chain will collapse,” Ekwelem said. He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for initiating revolution in local rice production. He disclosed that several integrated rice millers sprung up in addition to small scale rice farmers on the hinge of local rice production campaign by Buhari administration.
According to him, about N3.4 trillion has been invested in the entire rice value chain production across the country. He added that the gains made in the subsector in the last few years were possible through the support and interventions of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
He said addressing this challenge of smuggling was paramount so that all this effort, commitment and resources put in, in this rice value chain subsector would not be a waste.
He noted that most of the mills in the country were now working at half capacity because there were no off-takers to off-take the products they produced for Nigerian markets.
Asked about collaborative effort between his group and security agents manning borders, especially men of the Nigeria Customs Service, he said men of the Service were trying, but it appeared they were overwhelmed by the number of porous borders.