The Rice Processors Association of Nigeria has raised the alarm that over one million metric tons of rice was smuggled into Nigeria in the last three months.
The Chairman of RIPAN, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Maifata, made the startling revelation while briefing the media in Abuja on the latest development in rice smuggling in the country.
Maifata said: “Investors in Nigeria have made enormous financial commitment in the Rice Sub-sector.
“Unfortunately, the only threat to the industry’s total development is smuggling.
“Over one million metric tons of rice, which is equivalent to about 20 million bags of 50kg rice, have been smuggled into Nigeria in the last three months.
“Nigeria currently loses huge revenues, foreign exchange and Jobs to this menace as Nigeria rice processing companies are shutting down because of their inability to gain market access.
“More painfully, millions of small-holder farmers are stuck with their paddy because the millers can no longer afford to buy from them.”
Maifata said investigations conducted by the association in the last few months indicated that “all our international borders have been converted to smugglers route and our markets are filled with smuggled foreign rice”.
He cautioned that “there is the need for urgent actions to avert eventual national food emergency by combating smuggling so that we can continue to grow our local Rice industry and the economy”.
While commending the efforts by the Central Bank of Nigeria in its intervention in the rice sub-sector of the economy, Maifata lamented that investors in the country despite their financial commitment are met with the threat to the industry’s growth due to the activities of smugglers
Speaking further on the CBN and Federal Government’s deliberate intervention in the sub-sector, the RIPAN boss, who is also the Chairman Umza International Farms Limited, said: “All the programmes have impacted greatly on our integrated processing capacity which has increased from 800,000 Metric tons in 2014 to 1.6 million metric in 2018. This is in addition to about 3.9 million metric tons of finished Rice milled by thousands of cottage millers scattered across the country.”
The association, among other things, recommended the immediate raid of the various rice smugglers market across the country. while appealing to the Federal Government to begin to sanction officers and employees of the Nigeria Customs Service, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control and Standards Organisation of Nigeria, who are saddled with the responsibility of enforcement and who compromise their offices or fail in their various responsibilities.
The RIPAN boss drew the attention of Government to the fact that some officers working in these Government Agencies are in collaboration with these smugglers and called on the authorities to fish them out and prosecute them for economic Sabotage.
Maifata said: “Government must deal firmly with smuggling and severely punish infractions in a way that makes smuggling too costly to risk. Particularly, Government must begin the fish out and punish multinational Companies who play on both sides of the Border – those who drive the syndicates (the promoters).
“Government must as a matter of urgent national importance take strong diplomatic action with our neighbouring countries who allow parboiled rice into their country for final destination to Nigeria. The Government may consider closing the Borders for some time if diplomatic overtures fail.”