Rice Producers and Miller Raise Alarm Over New Threat
Rice producers and millers have raised the alarm that about 566,000 metric tonnes of foreign rice may be smuggled into Nigeria through the country’s porous land borders at the detriment of locally produced rice.
This came as Federal Government confirmed on Sunday that there was an increase in the smuggling of rice into Nigeria.
As such, the government said it had convened a meeting involving the Nigeria Customs Service and other security agencies to re-strategise on how to address the ugly trend.
The Director-General, Rice Producers Association of Nigeria, Andy Ekwelem, told our correspondent that a document containing the movement of rice from Thailand and India to Benin Republic, which was obtained by RIPAN, showed that over 566,000MT of the commodity had been finding its way into the neighbouring country.
He explained that almost all the bags of rice shipped into Benin Republic were smuggled into Nigeria because the Nigerian population and market for rice was huge.
Ekwelem said, “If you look at this document (obtained by RIPAN), we have well over 184,989 metric tonnes of rice for Benin Republic from Thailand. Four vessels had already offloaded in Benin Republic and one of them was offloaded since August. These are the products you are seeing in the Nigerian market.”
When told by our correspondent that Benin Republic was not Nigeria, Ekewelem replied, “Yes, the products cannot come into Nigeria officially because the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Government had restricted access to Form-M for importers of rice.
“Rice is one of the key products in the Federal Government’s food security programme, so they had restricted the approval of Form-M for anybody who is importing rice into the country.
“So what these people do is that they take the rice to Benin Republic and then they send it in through the porous (Nigerian) borders. That is what has been happening for ages.”
Ekwelem added, “I just showed you that of Thailand, now from India you have 381,311 metric tonnes and the first two (vessels) should have landed in October.
“Five vessels had already offloaded in September. Two others had earlier offloaded in August. This is just how it has been since January up till this period.”
Also, the Chairman, Rice Millers Association of Nigeria, Peter Dama, said indigenous rice dealers had complained severally to the government and the NCS over the influx of smuggled rice.
He said, “We have complained and drawn their attention to the fact that the smuggled rice is coming through our borders and that they should take action.
“They have made promises but up till now we have not seen anything done adequately to stop the smuggling of rice into Nigeria. They bring the rice to our neighbouring countries and smuggle it into our country. It is very unfortunate and is affecting our efforts.”