Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), yesterday disclosed that most of the rice presently being brought into the country for consumption were produced close to 10 years ago.
Specifically, a representative of the apex bank, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, who spoke during a sensitisation programme for farmers in Bayelsa on CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, said the imported rice was preserved with chemicals and had been stored in the countries of origin for nine years.
Okorafor, who is the acting Director, Corporate Communications of the bank, noted that rice imports from Thailand, India and Vietnam were less heathy than those produced in Ebonyi, Kebbi and Jigawa.
“You need to taste Nigerian rice, it is fresh. Not the nine year old rice from Vietnam, Thailand and India. Let us feed ourselves. Our rice is healthier, it is not preserved with chemicals”, he said.
Despite the rising cost of the staple food, which has had an increase of over 100 per cent since this year, the central bank promised that before the end of 2017, Nigeria would begin to export the product to other countries.
It disclosed that from statistics available to it, rice production this year has exceeded projections, noting that if the tempo was sustained, by the end of 2017, Nigeria would not only meet its national demand but would export to other countries.
“We started a pilot programme in Kebbi State with 78,000 farmers, cultivating an average of one hectare and that was when President Muhammadu Buhari launched the programme in March last year.
“The programme was to enable farmers to plant three times in year – two dry seasons cropping and one rainy season cropping. I am telling you now that Kebbi State has exceeded one million tonnes of rice.
“Not only Kebbi, Ebonyi State has keyed into it. We were there last week and Ebonyi is to give us over 1.2million tonnes of rice in one year. They are harvesting now, they are bagging and they are milling. Nigerians are booking their Christmas rice in Abakaliki”, the CBN said.
It noted that other states had started embracing farming, explaining that Nigerians would be fully served by the time all the states start harvesting.
“Abia State has ordered rice from Ebonyi State Government. Other states are keying in. In Kebbi, Jigawa, Sokoto, Cross River, rice is coming up. Nigerians are planting rice, producing rice.
“We have been to Anambra, Niger, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Cross River and Ebonyi just to ensure that this is not another talk show. We have seen harvest of rice which brought me to say that the harvest in rice for this year has so far outstripped our projections.
“By the end of 2017, Nigeria will not only meet our national demands which is between six and seven tonnes per year, but we will exceed it that we will have rice to export to other countries”, the apex bank added.
The representative of the bank urged the people of Bayelsa to look beyond oil saying that the state was capable of feeding the country.
He said the CBN’s team came down to the state to educate the people and ensure their full participation in the programmes of CBN.
According to him, the naira weakened against foreign currencies due to over-dependence on oil and importation, adding that the only way to protect the local currency was for the country to produce and export.
In his remarks, the state Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr. Doode Week, said the state was also working hard to become a leading producer of fish in the country.