No doubt rice farmers in Nigeria had never had it so good than the last three years, it is on record that, they have never produced in larger quantity than in the last years. It is also on record that, rice farmers have received huge intervention under the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrower programme.
These, in addition to the federal government’s policy on rice importation have gingered rice production business in Kano state. It also resulted in the setting up of several new mega rice mills in the state.
A visit by our reporter to some markets in the state revealed that, local rice is enjoying a great patronage and in constant demand. It was gathered that, despite smugglers’ attempt to defy the importation policy, the local rice sells at a higher price than the smuggled rice.
Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) Kano state chapter chairman Alhaji Abubakar Haruna Aliyu stated that, the measure taken by the federal government has boosted rice business not only in Kano state but in the whole country. He added that Nigerians are now confident in patronising local rice as its quality has been improved greatly.
Investigation in different major markets in Kano has revealed that there is scarcity of foreign rice as the locally produced rice floods the market. Many rice dealers in the state attributed the development to measures put in place by the state’s Command of the Nigerian Custom Service which they said has led to tremendous successes in checkmating activities of smugglers of the commodity.
The Nigeria Customs Service, Kano/ Jigawa Command, in January 2019 alone confiscated over 3,000 bags of foreign rice smuggled into the country valued at N100 million.
Singer market’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the service, Alhaji Musa Nabanki, stated that the closure of the land border by the federal government and the clampdown on rice smugglers by the men of the Customs were the main reasons behind the scarcity of imported rice.
According to Nabanki the activities of the Customs had thrown a lots of marketers involved with the smuggled rice into financial crisis while many were facing trial at courts.
He further stated that, with the rise in rice demand the locally produced rice was gradually becoming scarce and its price had gone up.
According to him, locally produced rice now goes at N15,800 per bag while the foreign is now sold at N14,200.
A rice dealer Malam Musa Gantsa spoke passionately on the situation saying that, the locally produced rice had poor quality and not encouraging as companies empowered by the government to produce standard and qualitative local rice had failed to do so woefully and as a result, no marketer in his right frame of mind would want to commit his resources into what would yield him no profit.
The business man pleaded with the authorities of the Nigeria Customs Service to consider their plights and sit on a round table with them so as to further discuss and agree on better ways of doing their business to avoid going contrary to the Customs laws in order to salvage the situation.
According to the Customs area Comptroller Nasir Ahamad, the ban on foreign rice was a federal government’s policy that rice should not be imported through the land borders, so as to encourage self-sufficiency in rice production in the country.
He said, “Reducing this will save us our foreign exchange and create employment.”
Ahmad however encouraged the local millers to increase their level of production so that they could flood the market with more of their products at good price which would further cripple the demand for the imported product.
“Once they flood the markets with their goods at affordable price the foreign rice will naturally disappear from the markets as no one will go for it,” he said.
Furthermore, the area comptroller said, “no country would depend on another to feed its citizens, to even say the product is scarce means it is still available in the market and that what is left is to hear that, foreign rice has completely disappeared from the market.
“We owe it a duty to this country to stop the importation of such products and become self sufficient, and we owe it a duty to the country to ensure that unemployment, as a result of activities of smugglers which cripples local businesses, is reduced to the barest minimum.
“We would put more officers on the roads to look for any smuggled rice that is coming in and stop them before they get into our markets so that from scarcity it will turn to not available that’s what we want to hear.”
He said he would not discuss anything that has to do with rice and other banned goods with anybody as he had no such powers.