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.
This was contained in a report released on Wednesday by of Economic Confidential, a PRNigeria publication.
In 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 more 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.
In Terminus Market Jos, Mile 3 Market Port-Harcourt, Main Market, Onitsha, traders were reluctant to disclose how they got large supplies of foreign rice.
One of them said: “Bros (short for brother) you want to spoil our business? How can we tell you the source of our business?”
The rice traders further attributed the upsurge of rice smuggling to the ineffectiveness of Nigeria Cutoms Service (NCS), urging the government to take necessary steps to overhaul the security agency and its strategies to combat the menace.
In his reaction, NCS spokesperson, Mr. Joseph Attah lamented the activities of rice smugglers in Nigeria.
Attah said: “How much efforts are really enough? All our warehouses and available places are filled up with seized smuggled rice. The smugglers are becoming so deadly as the number of death have been recorded from our confrontations with them.
“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.
“We now urge the major stakeholders to join us in the campaign against the deadly activities of smugglers through advocacy and sensitizations that will lead to attitudinal changes in the part of the smugglers.”
Speaking, CBN Director of Corporate Communications, Mr Isaac Okorafor, while agreeing with many Nigerians that local rice has more nutritional value than foreign rice, opposed the views that the quantity of foreign rice in Nigerian market far outweighs the local.
“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.
In 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture World Markets and Trade stated that Nigeria imported three million metric tons of rice in 2018.
The US report said the import figure is 400,000 metric tonnes higher than the quantity of the product that was imported in 2017.
The report also stated that Nigeria’s local rice production dropped from 2016 to 2018 compared to the situation in 2015.