How local rice benefits from border closure
The closure of the country’s land border appears to be a blessing in disguise to Nigerian farmers. Stakeholders in the food and agriculture industry say their businesses have peaked.
Seven weeks ago, August 21, 2019 to be precise, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a partial closure of the Seme border between Nigeria and Benin Republic and other borders with neighbouring Niger, Cameroun and others to check smuggling and illegal mount of light arms.
Since the closure, locally produced rice is now the favorite of many, as the price of available foreign rice has jumped from between N12, 500 – N14, 500 to between N23, 000 – N25, 000.
Attention has now shifted to the local rice. Subsequently, the increased patronage has led to increase in price. As at last Tuesday, a 50kg bag of local rice sold for N20, 500.
According to the National President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Aminu Goronyo, the rice industry has gained over N52.21b since the border closure.
“The most important thing is that people have stopped eating foreign ‘disease’ that we call foreign rice. That is the major achievement, apart from the economic aspect of it. It is foreign disease-foreign cancer, foreign diabetes and the likes. Nigerians are now healthy and that is the most important thing.
“Secondly, Nigerians are now aware that they can feed themselves; they are no more relying on foreign products, which is another achievement of the border closure achievement. Nigeria has been spending over N358b every 12 months to foreign countries in the name of rice importation; today, that money is being saved, it’s being used here locally to assist our farmers, agro dealers, transporters and others. You can see economically how the development has generated wealth and also create employment for Nigerians.
“If we divide the N358b in 12 months by seven weeks of border closure, it will give us N52.21. That is exactly what the country has gained since the border closure, aside employment and economic growth.”
According to Olam Nigeria, producers of Olam Rice, since the border closure, the entire Rice value chain has been positively impacted.Vice President, Corporate and Government Relations of the company, Ade Adefeko told The Guardian that as locally milled Rice has improved in sales; rice paddy production is increasing rapidly.
“Before the border closure, rice millers were unable to sell their produce due to smuggled rice coming in through the borders. Many mills were not working to full capacity and were incurring heavy losses due to smuggling.“We are currently in harvest season and millers are buying paddy from all the growing regions to ensure that their mills are working full time and to full capacity, to deliver Rice to the market for the year end season, when rice is typically in very high demand,” he said.
Adefeko confirmed that the rice industry has seen tremendous increase in milling capacities in the last four years, adding that with the borders now closed partially, it is expected that there will be increased investments in the industry.He said: “The border closure has also resulted in increase in the uptake and consumption of other crops like maize, yam and cassava.
“Overall, the closure is positively energising the entire agriculture value chain. We look forward to more positively impacting policies, which will continue to drive the Nigerian economy to self-sufficiency in food production and security.”
Menitos Farm Depot, which deals in unpolished local rice (Ofada) said the development has helped local rice producers to create more awareness on the benefits of healthy local alternatives, adding that they are seeing a rise in enquiries, which is gradually converting to sales.
The founder, Toluwalope Daramola revealed that from her own experience, price is still a big issue. “So we are still within our usual sales range, no noticeable spike. In terms of patronage, I have not seen many changes. Increase in patronage by a bag or two is not the kind of impact I think we were going for. The local rice sector has seen an increase in demand, but for people like me who sell unpolished rice, it has not made much of a change.
“Production capacity is not exactly a problem, though it needs to be improved for price to crash, it’s the fact that people just assume foreign is better.”For Elephant Group Plc, makers of Elephant Pride Sortexed Quality Rice, the closure has given the company the advantage of selling at a better price than before the closure.
General Manager of the company, Dr. Rotimi Fashola, disclosed that though he could not be specific on the number bags the company has pushed out since the closure, he added: “but we are able to sell all quantities available. Your output is determined by the capacity of your mill. In other words you cannot exceed your mill’s capacity.”Fashola confirmed that the development has impacted their business positively. “It’s work in progress. We are getting better than where we were few years back and we shall continue to improve.”
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