Why local rice disappeared from markets during Christmas
Despite the Federal Government’s much acclaimed successes in rice production, the foreign brand was the saving grace for most Nigerians during the last festive season, as the much-hyped local rice disappeared from the markets.
It was double jeopardy for consumers, as The Guardian learnt that despite waiting on government till the last minute to release local rice, consumers were forced to buy the foreign rice at exorbitant rate, as the price rose with about 15 per cent, going for as high as between N17, 000 and 19,000 for the 50kg size.
Rather than see the local rice in circulation investigations revealed it was the foreign brand that flooded most markets, contrary to Government’s claims of massive production, which reduced importation of the foreign brands by 90 per cent.
In Lagos, the three years seamless record of providing LAKE Rice for Lagosians, which was conceived in a partnership between Lagos State and Kebbi State, was broken as the brand totally disappeared from circulation.
Despite promises from the state government that the brand will be available for the festive season, survey showed that till the eve of the New Year it was unavailable in markets; a development that threw prospective buyers into a state of disappointment.
An earlier statement from the Ministry of Agriculture, dated December 23, 2018, claimed the “Lagos State Government has assured residents of the availability of LAKE Rice in all approved designated sales centres, outlets and shops across the State from Saturday 22nd December, 2018,” it was later discovered not to be true.
Aside the designated outlets where buyers claimed they visited severally without any success, reports from major markets like Ile-Epo Oja, Agege Abattoir, Oshodi, Agege, Ogba, Idimu, Iyana-Ipaja, Mushin, and Daleko, among others revealed that Lake rice was not available for the festive period.
One of the reasons why the brand was much sought-after was the fact that it is fresh and wholesome on one hand, and affordable as it sells for N12, 000, N6, 000 and N2, 500 for 50kg, 25kg and 10kg, respectively, a price tag it maintained in the last three years, contrary to the price of foreign brands.
Though all entreaties made to know why it failed to appear in markets failed, as government officials were not forthcoming on the issue, The Guardian learnt from sources that the brand was made available to be sold during the festive period, but it was at the last minute re-bagged and re-branded for political campaign to party faithful as gifts for the yuletide.
Reliable sources that spoke with The Guardian in Kebbi State, confirmed the fact that there is still collaboration between the two states, disclosing that the state actually took delivery of Lake rice from Kebbi to make available during the festive period, but were surprised on news of its unavailability in the state.
When in November last year, Ogun State government announced its intention to roll out about 150,000 bags of its MITROS Rice for the yuletide, many had looked up to the period with much joy. But like the situation in Lagos, residents of Ogun, who had claimed that the rice was not widely circulated within the state, were again disappointed as sale of the rice was allegedly restricted to a section of the state.
A civil servant, Olawepo Jeremiah, who lamented the situation said it was obvious that what was produced last year was not up to the quantity produced in 2017, adding that despite that, only few people were able to get it due to the complicated process and location of the selling point.
“The purpose of the rice was to ensure food sufficiency by making it available and affordable to all. But it was only limited to Abeokuta, by the time you travel down from your destination to procure it, you’ll discover the price will even be more than the foreign brand. Even, people living in Abeokuta are lamenting that they didn’t have access to the rice. It is a serious scenario, as we relied on other brands in the market, rather than our own indigenous brand.”
The Kogi Confluence rice launched in December 2017, has went the way of others, as residents, based on investigations couldn’t find the brand in markets during the the festive season.
The Guardian checks indicate that the rice was not available in the state, not to talk of neighbouring states. Report has it that there was no trace of the product at the major markets and shops within Lokoja metropolis.
In Cross River, the Ayade branded rice was conspicuously missing in markets, contrary to the promise of the governor, Senator Ben Ayade. It was learnt that local rice produced by individual farmers flooded the market. Sadly, The Guardian learnt from reliable sources that much of the rice distributed by the state government for Christmas was imported brands, neglecting the local produce.
The commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Prof. Anthony Eneji, said effort is being made to commission a Rice mill, which is near completion to be producing 50,000 tons of rice, adding that it will start production in this first quarter, while the rice seedling commissioned last June would support farmers with best seedlings.
Eneji said the state is encouraging the farmers with incentives, especially from the Anchor Borrowers Programme to invest more in rice, cocoa and poultry farms so as to take advantage of the mills being put in place by government.
It was the same scenario in Delta and a good number of others states, which claim to have invested heavily in rice production, but couldn’t provide the promised rice for their people.
The former Chairman, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI)’s agriculture sector, Prince Wale Oyekoya, described the disappearance of the local rice in markets as conspiracy theory among the leaders and cabals against the larger population of Nigeria
Said he: Talking about unavailability of local rice during the festive season shows part of the conspiracy I earlier mentioned. The cabals and our leaders purposely killed the zeal of farmers generally, by importing food especially rice, chicken, wheat, fish and other items into the country. There is no people-oriented policy to save our nation but inconsistent policy for the few.
“Our leaders consistently kill local contents in the country to pave way for siphoning of our foreign currency through importation of unwholesome food items. Nigeria is not producing enough to feed the ever-growing population. There is too much deceit that the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Federal Ministry of Agriculture rolled out some loans to help farmers, whereas, all these intervention funds go to political and portfolio farmers which is why there is shortage of staple food in the country.”
He said: “Most state governments lied and have continued to lie that they are doing well in the area of agriculture, whereas the reality on ground is that most of the arable land in their states are lying fallow with no development, no production, no value addition for our food items. The few budgets they set aside for agriculture disappear through recurrent expenditure.
“Our minister of Agriculture is too docile and doesn’t know what he is doing apart from developing his own personal and friends’ farms. This is the same minister that called press conference reporting to Nigeria that we are self sufficient in rice production, that the only problem we have is shortage of bags to pack the rice from the warehouse. The same man that said we are going to import grass to feed our cow in ranches. There is no doubt that, with this type of man in our Agric sector, the sector is in a big problem with all kinds of challenges. Our leaders are enjoying the importation of rice and can care less in local rice production and can care less about feeding the nation.”
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