Rice Farmers Oppose Return of Impounded Rice to Traders
Rice farmers under the umbrella of the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), on Thursday kicked against the directive by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to return the smuggled goods it impounded from rice traders’ shops in Ibadan, Oyo State.
The group said that the resolution of the committee was at variance with the resolve of both the federal government and Nigerians to grow local capacity in the rice sector in order to achieve food security.
The Director General of RIPAN, Mr. Andy Ekwelem, explained this at a media briefing in Abuja, that the senate directive was capable of sending shock waves that could collapse the rice industry, discourage further investments and put over 15 million jobs at risk as well as erode the gains so far achieved in the country’s rice revolution.
He argued that if smuggling was not tackled with appropriate dispatch, the magnitude of loss to Nigerian stakeholders particularly the federal government, integrated rice millers, funding banks, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and farmers, among others, would be devastating for the country’s fledgling economy.
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Ekwelem, noted that there was the need for urgent action to avert a looming national food emergency, that all hands must be on deck to combat smuggling adding that what we need is to grow our local capacity and not foreign rice.
He also expressed support for the Nigeria Customs Service, adding that the raid on markets that were dealing on smuggled rice was legitimate and welcoming.
Ekwelem advised the Senate Committee to; “take a second look at the matter from a national economics prism because from where we are currently with the Nigerian economy, personal biases must be eschewed if we must make progress”.
“when investors realise that their investments are not protected by adequate legislation, they will have no option but withdraw their funds from the economy”.
“Over the past five years the current administration has invested almost everything it can, to encourage production and processing of rice all in the bid to conserve foreign exchange, strengthen our food security, provide jobs for Nigerians and grow our economy generally.
“A lot of people are encouraged by the forceful thrust of government. People are investing large scale farming, rice processing, paddy aggregation and agro-input dealerships.”
“Jobs are being created, private sector participation is alive and active and new entrepreneurs are emerging in the sector. The entire rice processing and milling sub sector employs between 13 million to 15 million Nigerians and if we encourage smuggled rice to flourish in our market, these jobs and all the noble efforts of government will be lost within the shortest possible time.” He explained.
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