The Federal Government on Monday announced that 571,000 tonnes of foreign rice warehoused in neighbouring countries were being targeted for the Nigerian market for the Christmas and New Year season, but vowed to stop their entry.
It also stated that Nigeria recently took delivery of 110 rice mills in its bid to enhance local production so as to commence the exportation of white rice from next year.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who disclosed these in Abuja, stated that some of Nigeria’s neighbours, particularly the Republic of Benin, were not moving goods within the region as required by relevant treaties.
He, however, stated that the Federal Government would henceforth check all illegal movements of food and non-food items into Nigeria from the neighbouring countries.
Ogbeh said, “What they do is that they import goods, station themselves at our borders and then smuggle them into Nigeria. For instance, the Republic of Benin doesn’t eat parboiled rice. They eat white rice. But all the rice that comes from the borders into Nigeria is parboiled.
“I have a list now of all the ships that left Thailand in the last seven weeks and they’ve arrived; 571,000 tonnes of rice waiting to enter Nigeria for Christmas. But we won’t allow that. We have to review the treaty in the region, because we are at the losing end. Why are we doing this? It is because this rice is not definitely grown in the Republic of Benin.”
He added, “They bring tomato paste and chicken not produced in the Republic of Benin and because the Nigerian market is so huge, that they want to exploit it. But no economy out of sympathy should damage our own and we should not out of sentiment allow anybody to do things to us, which we can’t do to them.
“When Dangote was trying to ship his cement through the Republic of Benin to Togo, it took him one year to persuade them.”
Ogbeh reiterated that the country would start exporting rice from next year, as he stated that 110 mills had been acquired to make this a reality.
He said, “We can make it happen. We have just brought in 110 rice mills of different capacities. Some can do 100 tonnes, others 50, 40, 20 and 10 tonnes. We are going to give them to cooperative organisations and rice millers all over the country to enhance their milling capacities.
“We have another 12 rice mills to come in maybe next year so that the milling capacity is strong enough for us and we too will begin to export white rice to West Africa.”
On the issue of possible famine in Nigeria from January next year, the minister stated that the government was prepared and promised that the country would not experience such.
The minister stated, “We want to put it quite clearly that there is no danger of famine in the country, because the government will not allow that to happen. We are already taking steps to make sure that Nigerians don’t go through any such harrowing experience. There has been some panic over the massive purchase of grains from many of the big grain producing fields in some parts of the country.
“This fear was heightened by emirs and chiefs in the North, who met with us on Tuesday last week and raised the same anxiety. It is true that for the first time in our history, we are witnessing an extra-ordinary purchase of our grains from the West, North and Central Africa. We are even getting demands from as far as Namibia; they are asking for grains in large quantities of up to 37,000 tonnes of maize.”