Written by Sarah NEGEDU

Rice farmers want firmer actions against smugglers

Rice farmers in the country are calling for a more decisive measure to be made in checking the unabated smuggling of the produce into the country, as the trend threatens the business of rice farming in Nigeria.

The farmers under the auspices of Rice Processors Association of Nigeria, RIPAN, said the activities of smugglers is crippling their investments thereby discouraging many from continuing the business.

Chairman of the association, Alh. Ahmed Abubakar, told journalists at a press briefing in Abuja that the activities of rice smugglers have been on the rise as, “over 1 million metric tons of rice (about 20,000,000 bags of 50kg rice) have been smuggled into Nigeria in the last three months.”

According to him, Nigeria currently loses huge revenues, foreign exchange and jobs to the menace as a result, he said, “Nigeria rice processing companies are shutting down because of their inability to gain market access.”

“More painfully, millions of small-holder farmers are stuck with their paddy because the millers can no longer afford to buy from them,” he said.

“The rice processors association wants to use this opportunity to tell everyone that If this menace is not tackled with appropriate dispatch, the magnitude of loss to Nigerian rice stakeholders starting with the Federal Government, integrated rice millers, funding banks, CBN, rice farmers, mill workers, rice consumers, etc. would be too devastating to cope with,” he warned.

He said there is need for urgent action to avert eventual national food crises by combating smuggling so that “we can continue to grow our local rice industry and the economy.”

He said “investigations have shown all our international borders have been converted to smugglers routes and our markets are filled with smuggled foreign rice.”

Abubakar therefore called on government to deal firmly with smuggling and severely punish infractions in a way that makes smuggling too costly to risk. “Particularly, government must begin the fish out and punish multinational companies that play on both sides of the border – those who actually drive the syndicates (the promoters).”

“It is absolutely vital for government to sustain the current drive for greater investments, strengthen the policy environment and continue to implement policies and strategies that grow local capacity and protect local value chain,” the chairman said.

He advised government to, “as a matter of urgent national importance, take strong diplomatic action with our neighbouring countries who allow parboiled rice into their country for final destination to Nigeria. The government may consider closing the borders for some time if diplomatic overtures fail.”

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