James Emejo in Abuja
As the federal government continues to sustain the closure of the country’s land borders to curb smuggling of foreign goods into the country and encourage local production, rice farmers have raised the alarm that the activities of those who are desperate to frustrate efforts of the government in driving consumption of local rice have fueled a hike in the price of the commodity.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had prevailed on the rice farmers, millers and processors not to take undue advantage of the border closure to raise prices.
The CBN governor had argued that the border closure was meant to promote the growth of the Nigerian economy and ensure that the country attained food self-sufficiency in the rice value chain for the benefit and well-being of the citizenry.
He had further argued that imported rice was preserved with chemicals, and therefore, not good for the consumption.
Emefiele warned that hoarding rice with a view to increasing the prices of rice would bring hardship to Nigerians.
But a survey carried out by THISDAY recently, in some markets in Lagos, showed that the price of a 50-kilogramme of local price ranges from between N16,000 and N17,000, compared with between N13,000 and N14,000 before the closure of the borders.
On the other hand, imported rice now sells at between N26,000 and N27,000, as against N18,000 – N19,000 before the border closure.
Though some traders said the rise in the cost of the staple food was due to the recent decision of the federal government to close all its land borders, the President of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, told THISDAY that there was no reason why local rice should not be sold at between N12,000 and N14,000 maximum.
He expressed frustration that despite assurances that the farmers would not hike the price, some saboteurs have hiked the prices of locally produced rice beyond the agreed threshold.
He, nevertheless, expressed optimism that the bumper harvest being expected in about a fortnight will help weigh down on prices.
He said: “You know there are saboteurs who will try by all means to sabotage this good effort that will help Nigeria and Nigerians.
“You know this issue of border closure; saboteurs just want to use that opportunity to sabotage the good things that is good to happen to Nigeria. We are selling paddy at N8,000 per bag and if you mill that it will give you 50 kilogrammes of milled rice and the cost of processing is not more than N2,000.
“So, I see no reason why rice should not be sold at between N12,000 and N14,000 maximum. There are people who don’t have this country at heart and who can go to any extent to put Nigerians into difficulty.”
On his part, the President of Coscharis Group, one of the leading rice producers in the country, Mr. Cosmas Maduka, attributed the development to activities of fraudulent middlemen.
According to him, most of them are in the habit of purchasing locally produced rice and repackaging them as foreign produce.
He said: “We stopped two of our dealers from carrying out any transaction with us. They would carry our rice and re-bag them into a foreign bag and sell. So, you may not be seeing our brand in the market because of things like this. The other thing we heard is that there is something they use in piercing bags of rice to remove some bowls from each bag and still sell the rice that is not up to 50 kilgrammes to a customer as 50 kilogrammes. So, for our bags, if you pierce it, it would tear.
“So, because they can’t do such with our rice,
they make sure they re-bag. But I am advising our customers to insist on buying only Coscharis rice. When you insist on that, then you can be confident that when you are buying 50kg, what you get would exactly be 50kg.”