The Federal Government has made frantic efforts to halt the importation of rice into the country to boost local production.
The Federal Government on Monday announced that 571,000 tonnes of foreign rice warehoused in neighbouring countries were being targeted for the Nigerian market for the Christmas and New Year season, but vowed to stop their entry.
It also stated that Nigeria recently took delivery of 110 rice mills in its bid to enhance local production so as to commence the exportation of white rice from next year, Punch reports.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who disclosed these in Abuja, stated that some of Nigeria’s neighbours, particularly the Republic of Benin, were not moving goods within the region as required by relevant treaties.
He, however, stated that the Federal Government would henceforth check all illegal movements of food and non-food items into Nigeria from the neighbouring countries.
Ogbeh said, “What they do is that they import goods, station themselves at our borders and then smuggle them into Nigeria. For instance, the Republic of Benin doesn’t eat parboiled rice. They eat white rice. But all the rice that comes from the borders into Nigeria is parboiled.
“I have a list now of all the ships that left Thailand in the last seven weeks and they’ve arrived; 571,000 tonnes of rice waiting to enter Nigeria for Christmas. But we won’t allow that. We have to review the treaty in the region, because we are at the losing end. Why are we doing this? It is because this rice is not definitely grown in the Republic of Benin.”
He added, “They bring tomato paste and chicken not produced in the Republic of Benin and because the Nigerian market is so huge, that they want to exploit it. But no economy out of sympathy should damage our own and we should not out of sentiment allow anybody to do things to us, which we can’t do to them.
“When Dangote was trying to ship his cement through the Republic of Benin to Togo, it took him one year to persuade them.”
Ogbeh reiterated that the country would start exporting rice from next year, as he stated that 110 mills had been acquired to make this a reality.