The Nigerian government says it cannot guarantee the healthy status of smuggled imported rice being dumped in Nigeria, advising Nigerians not to consume it.

It was a warning issued by the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, at a media briefing in Lagos on Monday.

He says the rice spends months on the high seas and warehouses.

He appealed to Nigerians to complement the efforts of the government by consuming only locally-grown and processed rice which he said “is fresher, tastier and healthier".

“We don’t know where or how imported rice is made or how old it is? It is reported that most of the rice dumped on us are old and probably rejected.

“The citizens of those countries do not eat this rice. The citizens of Benin also do not eat it. But they send it to us.

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“Unhealthy foods are dangerous to health. So let’s eat what we can vouch for," he said.

The minister noted that rice smuggling was the biggest challenge facing rice production in Nigeria.

Quoting the Rice Millers Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RIMIDAN), he said more than two million metric tonnes (MT) of parboiled rice were smuggled into Nigeria in 2017.

Mohammed said that smuggled rice was primarily sourced from Thailand and India and came into Nigeria through the country’s borders with Benin, Niger and Cameroon.

"In Benin Republic, the total demand for white rice (white rice is consumed in Benin, against parboiled rice in Nigeria) is 400,000 MT.

"Yet the country, with a population of about 11 million imports between one million and 1.2m MT of rice annually.

"Who are they importing for? Nigerians of course. In fact, as Nigeria’s rice import falls, Benin’s rice import increases.

"Most of the parboiled rice imported by Benin eventually lands in Nigeria through smuggling," he said.

Giving price comparison, Mr Mohammed said that smuggled rice costs between 11,000 Naira and 13,000 Naira per 50kg bag, while Nigerian processed rice sells for between 14,500 Naira and 15,000 Naira per 50kg bag.

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Explaining why price of local rice was higher, he said Cameroon and Benin Republics had lowered tariff payable on rice to zero and five per cent respectively to encourage importation and subsequent smuggling into Nigeria.

He added that Thailand and India where the smuggled rice were sourced also gave a high level of subsidies to rice farmers and rice processors.

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