Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
Nigeria has drastically cut the volume of its rice shipments from Thailand to 20,000 metric tonnes from 644,000 mt it was importing by September 2015, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said.
He made this disclosure at the weekend when he received the Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Services (NCS), Col Hammed Ali (rtd), and a team of senior officers of the customs command.
Thailand used to be one of the three major exporters of parboiled rice to Nigeria until a policy by government banned the export in 2015, to stimulate local production of the food staple.
The minister said the figures were released by Thai Rice Exporters Association, which complained that customs curbs in smuggling had led to reduction in rice importation.
He also said some Thai investors had indicated interest in establishing rice milling plants in Nigeria.
The step is one of the ways to end Nigeriaâ€™s dependence on imported rice and ensure self-sufficiency in rice production by next year.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at another forum said Nigeria is inching towards achieving its 7 million target in rice production by 2018.
Mohammed said attaining that target would leave the country with a surplus of 700,000 metric tonnes as the current local demand for rice is 6.3 million metric tonnes.
He premised his optimism on the inauguration of two private owned rice mills in the country this year.
The mills include the WACOT Mill in Argungu, Kebbi State, with an installed capacity to process 120,000 metric tonnes of parboiled rice annually, and the integrated Dangote Rice Mill, projected to produce 1,000,000 metric tonnes per annum.
â€œToday, in continuation of these efforts, we are happy to tell Nigerians of a giant stride made by the administration in the agriculture sector, specifically rice production: Nigeria is inching closer to achieving self-sufficiency in rice, due to the success recorded by the administration in the local production of rice. There is more good news to report,â€ Mohammed said.
The minister attributed the improvement in rice production across the country to governmentâ€™s Anchor Borrowersâ€™
Programme initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari, which supports farmers through inputs distribution and loans to boost rice production.
Presently there are 12.2 million nigerians cultivating rice according to the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN).