#BounceExclusive: What Happens When We Stop Importing Rice?
Recently, the Nigerian government announced plans to completely stop the importation of rice through some land borders once and for all.
They say it is frustrating watching the way rice continues to be smuggled into the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, gave the warning in Abuja, while highlighting how well the government has done in the agriculture sector in the last two years.
There have been fears that this may further push the price of rice up but that is if there is rice to buy at all.
Minister Ogbeh said the decision would encourage local rice farmers and enable the country achieve self-sufficiency by 2018.
But if there will be self-sufficiency by 2018, the signs should be clear by 2017, shouldn’t they?
Ifeanyi runs two shops at the Ogba retail market where he sells foodstuff, with rice being a major item.
All he has in his store are imported rice. This is what he has access to and what his customers want to buy.
The Minister claimed that importation of rice reduced from 580,000 tonnes in 2015 to 58,000 tonnes by 2016 because more people are growing rice in the oil-rich nation.
But Ifeanyi does not feel the impact of the so-called locally grown rice.
“We don’t have this local rice they are talking about because to even get it here is difficult. I am aware they have it in Abakaliki and some parts of the north but it is not in circulation.
“It is only in those places they grow it and it is very costly. For us to be able to get the local rice, they must do something to make sure it circulates,” he said.
The imported rice come in different popular brands with a 50kg bag sold at between 17,000 to 20,000 naira.
“The only local rice we have here is ofada rice and that is even far costlier than the normal rice. We sell some 45,000 to 50,000 naira.
“Things are hard, there is no money and customers are not coming like before because everybody complains of hardship,” the trader lamented.
Now that the government says that by the end of 2017, Nigerians may have to depend on local rice, the question is, where is the rice? And at what price will it be available?
How about the highly celebrated LAKE rice? “I have not seen it, not even one; I only hear it on radio and television” Ifeanyi said.
As part of efforts to boost local production, the government has promised to distribute no fewer than 200 rice mills to millers across the states to encourage fresh milling of locally produced rice.
But Ifeanyi took this with a pinch of salt and gave this advice: “The way they can make this local rice plan possible is for them to forget about politics.
“After they say it on air, they will go to their offices and do a different thing. They will allocate monies to their relatives to go and solve another problem instead of the agriculture they told us they want to invest in.”
Another challenge is security for farmers as more rice farms are getting ravaged by cattle, led into farms by arms-carrying herdsmen.
More farmers are abandoning their farms to these destructive herders and security measures being adopted to check their activities are yet to truly check them.