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Border closure: Foreign rice in Nigerian markets now at 37 percent

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The interventions of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) through the partial border closure against smuggling and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) via the Anchors Borrowers Programme (ABP) on the rice sub-sector of the Nigerian economy, have drastically reduced foreign rice prevalence in the Nigerian markets, bringing the figure to 37%, Economic Confidential can report.

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Recall that Economic Confidential conducted a 3-week survey on foreign rice imports and smuggling in April last year to the effect that over 70 percent of rice in the Nigerian market were foreign. The report prompted further actions by various agencies of government.

In the latest one month survey on the rice market across the six geopolitical zones in the country, the economic intelligence magazine observed that foreign rice such as Mama Gold, Royal Stallion, Rice Master, Caprice, Falcon Rice and Basmati have reduced almost have of the last year figure and thinning out due to the activities of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) in partnership with the task force set up by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

In the survey and investigations carried out, Nigerian rice namely: Umza and Fursa Crown from Kano, Mama Happy from Niger, Labana Rice from Kebbi, Olam Rice from Nasarawa, Abakaliki Rice from Ebonyi, Ofada Rice from Ogun State, Swomen Dama from Plateau, Lake Rice of Lagos/Kebbi States among others have dominated the Nigerian Rice markets.

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and stakeholders in the rice subsector have reacted to the latest report.

Stakeholders in the rice subsector, namely, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Rice Millers Association of Nigeria (RIMAN) and Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) however gave kudos to the apex bank for the timely intervention and banning of rice since 2015, and the combined task force, a development that has seen growth in local production of rice and serious savings of foreign exchange.

The stakeholders in separate interviews attributed the current success level on the political will of the Buhari administration to tackle the menace headlong, the cooperation of the stakeholders to give adequate and timely information of smugglers and their activities to the task force team and the encouraging raids on various warehouses by the Nigerian Customs Service which led to serious seizures and reduction of foreign rice to the present level.

As part of efforts to reach different markets across the six geopolitical zones of the country, the investigative team of Economic Confidential spread its dragnet to Utako Market, Abuja; Terminus Market Jos; Mile 3 Market Port-Harcourt; Main Market, Onitsha; Ogbete Market in Enugu, G-Cappa Market, Lagos, Jimeta Main Market, Yola and Singer Market Kano.

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On-the-spot checks by this intelligence magazine show the dominance of local rice in these markets by merchants who however admitted that profits coming from foreign rice far out-weigh the local rice, just as the majority of those interviewed believed local rice has more nutritional value.

The dealers buy local rice at about N14,000 per 50kg bag, while they sell it, customers, for between N16,500 to N18, 000. The same merchants hitherto pay about N15,000 for the smuggled foreign rice and sell to consumers between N22,500 and N25,000 per bag.

Speaking on the gradual disappearance of smuggled foreign rice, Mrs. Angela Okafor, a rice distributor at Ogbete market in Enugu said: “My brother, let me tell you that Customs are everywhere ooh. I can’t even tell whether you are one of them. But as you can see, go inside and check, no more foreign rice in my shop. You can see only Nigerian rice here. And I am making profit.”

Ahmed Sule, a merchant in Singer Market Kano said: “There is more market and profit for us in foreign rice, because it’s cheaper, but government and customs have removed foreign rice from the market and only local rice I am trading in now”

Mrs. Okafor earlier interviewed said. ‘tell them to bring the cost of local rice down” she pleaded.

Another rice merchant, Hajia Rilwanu in Utako Market, Abuja, noted that “I try as much as possible to buy foreign rice, but they are scarce and so I rely on Nigeria rice now because customs personnel are everywhere watching. I don’t want wahala. Check inside you can see only local rice in my shop.”

The same goes for Terminus Market Jos, Mile 3 Market Port-Harcourt, Main Market, Onitsha.

The rice traders in separate interviews attributed the decline of rice smuggling to the border closure and frequent raids by Customs service in collaboration with sister security agencies.

When contacted for his comments on the level of foreign rice prevalence in the Nigerian markets, the CBN Director of Corporate Communications, Mr Isaac Okorafor said stakeholders in the rice value chain are smiling to the banks and if you visit the markets,

Okoroafor noted that the volume of rice importation into the country had drastically declined as the CBN had not allocated any foreign exchange for the importation while there had been a massive production of high-quality Nigeria’s rice in most of the states.

Also speaking in the same vein, the spokesperson of the Nigeria Customs Service, Joseph Attah said the rice farmers, millers and processors and daily smiling to the banks.

“The partial border closure by the federal government has boosted the local capacity in massive Nigeria rice production, creating job opportunities and generating huge revenue to the national coffer.

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The border the closure has also addressed the challenging issue of trans-border crime and criminalities fuelled by non-compliance with ECOWAS Protocol on the transit of goods by neighbouring countries.

“All our warehouses and available places are filled up with seized smuggled rice. In fact, the federal government recently gave a directive that rice and other relief materials in the warehouses should be distributed to orphanages and Internally Displaced People Camps to address the plights of the victims as well as to free the warehouses”, he said.

The National Chairman of Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Maifata said the percentage of foreign rice smuggled into the country through land borders have reduced drastically and will definitely hit the zero level.

“I can confidently tell you that the level of smuggling foreign rice will soon come down to a zero level”.

“In general, this has helped our local processing industry to work at full capacity and the farmers are able to sell all that they produce, and this has encouraged many more farmers to join rice farming”, he said.


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