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Border Closure: Prices of items go up, as local rice

By Gbenga Akinfenwa
08 September 2019   |   3:24 am
The closure of land borders with the Republic of Benin and other neighboring countries has led to increased prices of frozen foods, rice, and other items considered by the Federal Government as contrabands in the last two weeks.

Seme border post. PHOTO: SULAIMON SALAU

• 50kg Rice Now N20, 000
• We Still Need To Import To Survive-Daramola
• High-Cost Will Boost Rice Revolution-Kaita

The closure of land borders with the Republic of Benin and other neighboring countries has led to increased prices of frozen foods, rice, and other items considered by the Federal Government as contrabands in the last two weeks.

The worst-hit is rice, considered as a staple in households. While the price of frozen turkey and chicken climbed with about 20 percent, findings revealed that rice has risen to between 50 to 60 per cent.

Currently, a 50kg of parboiled rice initially sold between N12, 000 and N12, 500 has risen to between N17, 000 and N20, 000, depending on the area.

As the new price regime gradually takes the commodity beyond the reach of many, some are forced to embrace local rice, but unfortunately, the much-hyped local rice has disappeared from the markets.

The development has discredited the Federal Government’s claim of achieving a 90 per cent reduction in rice import. According to the Federal Government, the yield per hectare of rice had attained 2.5million tons in 2005; 3.5m tons in 2010 to 5.5m tons in 2018.

On the contrary, Nigeria is still ranked the second-largest importer of rice in the world, incurring an average import bill of N1b daily on rice import, despite announcing itself as the largest producer of the commodity in West Africa.

According to the import data from a global trade portal, Index Mundi, the country imported 5.6 million tonnes of rice between 2017 and now, at the global price of $410, which amounts to $2.29m.

This is contrary to claims by the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) that Nigeria had saved $800 million from the importation of rice.

Findings showed that the price of the commodity might escalate in few weeks to come unless the government suspends the current birder closure. It is unthinkable this can last till December 2019.

The Managing Director, Bama Farms, Prince Wale Oyekoya, said the aftermath of the border closure was expected. “When the hasty decision on border closure, was hastily made, I knew it would not yield any positive results because we are not prepared for this unfriendly fire brigade policy. It is supposed to be in tranches or step-by-step agenda, as we don’t produce enough and we are not self- sufficient in food production as claimed by the presidency.

“The price of rice and other commodities will continue to rise towards the December time because some merchants or importers of these products operate like mafia and saboteurs, who are bent on running down our economy for their selfish interest, since they are super-rich to buy Forex and flood the market at a higher price cost to consumers.”

Oyekoya said the only way to address the impending food crisis is for the Federal Government to retrace its steps and introduce a people-oriented policy that will favour the masses and not the cabals.

“Mechanisation and value addition is the only way out, as a nation with a huge population of over 200 million people. You don’t just close the borders with no sufficient local alternatives. The state and local governments are supposed to be carried along and assisted in terms of technology; funds and improved seedlings in their areas of comparative product advantages.

“Every state has the advantage of what can be grown, but they rather prefer to run to Abuja for monthly allocations, which has made governors be lazy, when they can use the scarce allocations to improve the sector in their states, to create wealth and jobs for their citizens,” he said.

The agriculturist said the Federal Government should focus on geo-political zones, by establishing agriculture hubs. “The states to need to establish industrial hubs in their senatorial districts and by so doing, food will be in excess and we will be able to feed ourselves and Africa.”

Founder, Menitos Farm Depot, Toluwalope Daramola, who attributed the disappearance of local rice to the high cost of production and adverse climatic conditions, said it’s not exactly a surprise that the country still needs to import to survive. 

“Lake rice, considered as local rice is sold between N14, 000 and N16, 000, depending on the market. For this year, it is unrealistic to stop rice importation…but ensuring infrastructure for rice farmers, off-taking their produce to avoid waste, among other palliatives are some of the steps towards abundance.

“Controlling the exportation of the little we produce is also an area to look into. Despite the scarcity we speak of, our rice and rice products still get exported to neighbouring countries.”

The Managing Director, Dangote Tomato Processing Factory, Kano, Abdulkarim Kaita, throws his weight behind the partial closure of borders.

“The most important thing we should ask ourselves is: must we eat rice? Is rice the only food that we can afford to eat in this country? Let the ban escalate the price to whatever level, it’s only those who consider it as the only food they can eat that is to worry about price.

“If we want to move forward and become self-sufficient in rice production we must stop its importation. Scarcity is what will spur more investment in the growing and processing of rice. The Federal Government is doing a lot in funding small-scale farmers. The current high price is what will cause the rice revolution in the country, that within the next few years we will be thinking of export. We should not allow our neighbors to destroy our economy by making us perpetually dependent on food imports and keeping citizens of other countries employed,” he said.

Kaita said the parboiled rice smuggled into the country is not consumed by the neighboring countries, but they allow it to be freely smuggled into Nigeria because they are making a lot of money from the rice ships coming to their ports.