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Yuletide beckons price of rice still high

By Gbenga Akinfenwa
07 November 2021   |   3:28 am
Like the case of last year, when many households could not afford rice to celebrate the yuletide, the scenario may repeat itself, as the price of the product is still high...

[FILES] Rice

Like the case of last year, when many households could not afford rice to celebrate the yuletide, the scenario may repeat itself, as the price of the product is still high.

Though the current economic crunch cannot be ruled out as one of the factors responsible for this, investigations showed that the much-hyped rice sufficiency in the country is not yielding the desired result.

While the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed last year that the country had started producing 150,000 bags of rice per day and about 35 million bags yearly, the impact has not been felt, considering the increasing price of the commodity on daily basis.

Currently, the price of 50kg bag of foreign rice is hovering between N30, 000 to N38, 500. For instance, Mama Gold brand is between N30, 000 to N35, 000; royal stallion – N25, 000 to N27, 500; Caprice – N30, 500 to N35, 000, depending on the market.

The price of a bag of local rice ranges between N15, 000 – N30, 000 currently, depending on the level of purity of the rice. Stony rice is cheaper. A 50kg bag of Mama Africa, produced by Olam Nigeria Limited goes for about N30, 000, same with Mama’s pride another brand from the company.

The 50kg bag of brown rice popularly called Ofada is between N55, 000 and N60, 000.

Rather than seeing the local rice in circulation, investigations showed that foreign brands have flooded most markets, a development that contradicts the government’s claims of massive production.

Even those produced by some states have suddenly disappeared from the shelves after just a few years. For instance, the LAKE rice – conceived in a partnership between Lagos and Kebbi states has since disappeared.

One of the reasons the brand was much sought-after was the fact that it was 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 for three years at a time the price of foreign brands, sold for as high as between N17, 000 and 19,000.

The last time the rice was made available was early 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, but ever since, the rice has disappeared.

Though the Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Abisola Olusanya, during a ministerial briefing to commemorate the administration’s second year in office last May said “Lake rice is still in existence and will resurface soon,” but feelers from the ministry as at last Thursday showed that the LAKE rice will not be available this December.

Like the situation in Lagos, the MITROS rice – Ogun State brand of rice, which was gaining traction before the current administration assumed office in 2019, has had a stillbirth.

The Guardian investigations showed that while Lagos is planning to bring back its rice, Ogun State has no plan of rejuvenating the brand, just as the rice mills at Sawonjo and Asero are lying fallow.

In Kogi State, it is gathered that the Confluence rice launched in December 2017, has gone the way of others, as the brand was no longer in circulation.

The Guardian checks indicate that the rice is not available in the state, not to talk of circulating to neighbouring states. Report has it that there was no trace of the product at the major markets and shops within Lokoja metropolis.

Also in Cross River, the Ayade branded rice cannot be found in the markets. It was the same scenario in Delta State and a good number of other states, which claim to have invested heavily in rice production, whereas the product is nowhere to be found.

In Kebbi State, the claim that the LAKE rice is still in circulation cannot be verified. The market is mainly flooded by local rice produced by individual farmers and private investors.

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 a conspiracy theory among the leaders and cabals against the larger population of Nigeria

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 the 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.”

The Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Kebbi State Chapter, Muhammed Augie, said the inability of rice processors to get paddy, is the major cause of the price increase. “This is a lean period where supply from the market is declining, prompting current price hike.”

The local rice that should have been served, as alternatives are currently not much in circulation as expected, and the few ones in the market are expensive, more than the imported rice.

The National Deputy President of RIFAN, Segun Atto, who claimed that rice production has increased tremendously, attributed the price increase to a number of factors. “One of the factors is insecurity across the country. Two, climate change – the issue of flooding, dearth of rain and others have negatively affected farmers productivity. Three, the issue of saboteurs who are still bent on importing rice, contrary to the government’s position that we should encourage homegrown agriculture, where we grow what we eat and eat what we grow.

“If we believe in that slogan and the philosophy associated with it, we should know that we have arable land that can give us what we want. There are lots of cabal in the country sabotaging government’s efforts and anywhere such exists it will be hard to see any progress.

“Do you know that some people rented warehouses and stockpiled locally produce rice and keep telling people that nothing is happening in the rice sector? How long are we going to do this? Another thing is that there is need for funds for farmers to cultivate maximally, if these issues are addressed the price of the commodity will come down.”

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