Rice Farmers Assures Nigerians Of Rice Availability During The Festive Period – Food
As Christmas is just three weeks away, stakeholders in the production of rice have assured Nigerians that there would be no shortage of rice during the festive period.
Nigerians have had fears about the availability of rice during the festive season because of it’s recent unavailability in the market.
The importation of rice which is a key staple food in the Nigerian diets was temporarily shut, so as to encourage local production of food items.
IgbereTV reports that the stakeholders, who commended the Federal Government for the bold step, urged Nigerians to be patient with the government on its decisions to close the border, saying that at the long run, it will be better off for the country’s economy.
Aminu Goronyo, National President, Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), noted that members of the association are fully ready to meet demands during and after this season.
“We are fully ready, 100 per cent fully ready. Production is going on, processing is going on, packaging is going on, we are on track and God willing, Christmas will come and go successfully. Nobody will cry about rice,” he said.
On the prices that are still on the high side, Goronyo stated that the association is doing all it can to ensure that those sabotaging rice availability are exposed and forwarded to the appropriate authority for punishment.
“We are doing a lot to ensure that those that are sabotaging rice availability are exposed and we will also forward them to the appropriate authority for punishment, because now, we are selling N14,000 per 50kg bag. There are unpatriotic Nigerians who always want to sabotage Nigerians because they are not patriotic to their country.
“Because of the small gains they make, they are always making it difficult for Nigerians to survive. Those are the people that buy, hold and sell at exorbitant rates and we are trying to make sure that they do not succeed. We will continue to sell at N14, 000; we will continue to call on the government to arrest those that are selling above N15, 000 and N16, 000,” he added.
Speaking on the quality, as investigation shows that most of the Nigerian rice is full of stones; Goronyo averred that Nigerian rice does not have stones, adding that it is even better than the foreign ones.
“Let me tell you, Nigerian rice does not have stones. It is even better than that of foreign countries and Ghana. I tell you there are saboteurs who go on milling and they deliberately put stones in their bags just to discourage Nigerians from eating Nigerian rice and they don’t put their addresses on their bags.
“We have been telling the government to arrest those that have been selling rice in bags which do not have addresses. Tell Nigerians that from RIFAN nobody will cry and shout about unavailability of rice God willing,” he added.
“Lots of rice farmers are increasing their production areas because there is a huge market for paddy since the border closure. This is because millers are patronising rice farmers now and off-taking all that they produce immediately,” Goronyo said.
He stated that before the border closure, farmers had over 20,000 tons of paddy lying fallow because millers were not off-taking from them, stressing that what Nigerians should be looking at is beating down the prices of Nigerian rice because a lot of Nigerians have now ventured into the business ranging from production, processing, packaging and marketing.
“In no distance time, God willing, Nigerians will find our rice much available and affordable across the country. We have realised many successes by the border closure resulting to the saving of about N300 billion from the annual rice importation to Nigeria. Today, we are no longer dependent on the rice we consume in the country with only N80 billion to produce locally on annual basis.
“Before 2015 Nigeria, spent nothing less than N368 billion on rice importation but today, that same money is in circulation within the country’s business community.”
Goronyo further stated that the border closure is part of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s patriotic gesture, adding that the closure is not to enrich rice farmers but a devotion to the welfare of the country and commitment to compete with other nations of the world.
Wale Oyekoya, an agriculturist, said that rice production in Nigeria is increasing but not to the proportion of demands, stating that it will take time like two years before production can meet up with the demand of populace.
“More people like our politicians that have stolen our money need to invest in agriculture as it requires huge capital especially in terms of mechanisation and better quality of rice that is free of stone or dirt with good packaging to meet up with the international best practice standard,” he said.
Oyekoya said that price of rice will continue to rise unless there is improvement in the production, stressing that the environment is not yet conducive for business to strive in Nigeria with multiple taxation coupled with bad infrastructure.
“Bad road network hinders moving farm produce to the market. Security issue is not addressed yet, as people still get kidnapped in their farms; poor electricity supply affects production and lack of price control by the government is another big issue where everybody just decides on how much they sell their produce.
Speaking further, he said that state governments are in a better position to empower their citizens to do more farming and add value to their produce.
“States have more control on lands and should be willing to allocate to farmers with title to the land and provide inputs and fertilizers to the farmers. Closing the borders is not a bad idea as we cannot continue to allow foreign countries to turn Nigeria into a dumping ground of unwholesome foods.
“State governments should leverage on the closure and encourage farmers to produce more by providing farm equipment that are not easily available in Nigeria and buy over the produce from farmers. Local governments should roll their sleeves also and get to the farming business as this is the only sector that can create wealth, jobs and revenue generation to the state,” he added.
Oyekoya, who is also the Managing Director of Bama Foods, said that before foreign investors can invest in agriculture in Nigeria, there must a sincerity of commitment from the government and that sustainable policy that is implementable should be in place.
“Every investor’s first call is how they can recoup their money and there is no doubt, our population should be an asset to us for marketing.
“The only way to push down the price of rice is to increase the production of rice, our land borders are still very porous to export few rice that we produce to neighbouring countries.
“Some of the middlemen are hoarding the produce to sell at a higher price to the populace during the Christmas time. It is about time for the government to take the issue of storage facilities seriously because had it been that we stored this rice before the border closure, the suffering will not be much like this and it could have cushioned the effects of scarcity,” he added.
Pastor Adeola Elliott, a farmer, said that it is not in doubt that the current rate of rice production is low, to meet level of demands and consumption.
He said that it is hoped that the efforts of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) so far on loan and technical support to farmers will boost production gradually, stressing that citizens of Nigeria should tighten their belt, just for a few months as the spiral inflation will soon subside.
“News have it that many of the countries exporting rice through neighbouring nations to Nigeria are making inquiries, to enter into production partnership with Nigeria, since the closure has stalled their businesses. It is also cheery to notice efforts by the government to close up every gap in the border closure.
“Those who are complaining about the closure are those reaping from where they did not sow. The present administration is doing its utmost to reverse the damage done to our nation by the various administrations,” he added.
Elliott also noted that the border closure ought to have been effected a long time ago, but for the endemic corruption in our country, adding that it was a strong political will of the Buhari administration that took the bull by the horn, that Nigeria had been short-changed by the surrounding nations.
Edobong Akpabio, Agropreneur and a Business Consultant, said that Nigerian rice farmers have done tremendously well, adding that with time, resources, and continued support, they will meet local demand.
She, however, doubted the farmers’ meeting the demands this season, stating that when demand is higher than supply, price goes up. She stressed that the nation’s cost of production is still quite high and this has an effect too, on the pricing.
“The rice that came into the country from our land borders were smuggled and the last time I checked, smuggling was still an economic crime. Smuggling of rice into Nigeria left local rice production comatose and endangered our food security. We can at least be patriotic on these aspects.”
On what to do to push the prices of rice downward, Akpabio said that there must be mobilisation of more farmers for massive rice production and that the Federal Government should engage the states with comparative advantage in rice production more effectively.
Also, provision of quality inputs and enormous resources, and further put more effort to the ‘Buy Nigeria, Eat Nigerian and Grow the Naira’ campaign which must be spread by the Federal and states Ministries of Information and the National Orientation Agency (NOA).
However, Nnimmo Bassey, an environmentalist activist, feels it is time to decouple rice from Christmas.
He said that Nigerians should focus on having safe and good food in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices.
“In reality, the border closure affects more items than rice. I don’t believe border closure is the solution to our economic challenges. What is needed is better support for the sectors that engage most people, better overall economic management, less wastage and greater inclusion and integration of the people, especially labour, in decision-making processes.
Stephen Olufemi, General Secretary Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Lagos State chapter, said that the Federal Government is doing the right thing, that many people that are roaming about before are now going back to farm because they know that once they plant, there will be market for their produce.
“With the quality of rice we are having in Nigeria, it is okay for us. Then with time, we will be producing better quality than that of the imported ones. Let us start somewhere, if we don’t start somewhere, we cannot get there.
“I cannot promise that the way people have been getting rice this year, they will be able to get it. But I can assure you by next year, it will be more than what they have been getting. Everybody is going back to agriculture and by the time the produce is going out, we will be everywhere but this December I cannot guarantee,” he added.
Oluranti Sagoe-Oviebo, the Lagos State Project Coordinator, Agro-Processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS) project, said: “I will just use this opportunity to appeal to Nigerians that we need to be patient with ourselves because if we are not patient, in no time they will open the border. No economy can thrive on importing things you must be able to export as well.
“We are a consuming nation that is the honest truth and it is time we start to look inward and start to develop our own economy especially in the agric sector.
“If you go to the Northern states they have a lot of rice, we have in the South East, as well and some part of the South South. We have rice but you know Nigerians, any opportunity we have to hoard things people are hoarding right now and they are doing that to maximise profit,” she added.
Sagoe-Oviebo also said that with time if the country is able to sustain the closure and farmers go back and there is explosion in production, naturally the prices will crash.
“That is why I am insisting that we must be patient with ourselves and then with government’s policies in place and with government’s agencies, regulatory agencies working together to see how we can maximise production to enhance production the better for us.
“For example if before, we were producing two tonnes of rice per hectare and with improved technology, we are able to do five to six tonnes per hectare; you will see that naturally, our production price is going to drop and when there is competition when a lot of people are producing, the price will come down.
“For us to be able to sustain this, we need to deprive ourselves, we need to sacrifice for a while. It is just for a while. It is a Nigerian syndrome; it is a human activity, with time everything will stablise but we need to be patience.”