The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, has lamented that the Federal Government’s efforts to reduce the importation of foreign rice into the country is being frustrated by the activities of neighbouring Benin Republic through the abuse of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol.
“The challenge we have with our neighbours is that because of the extant ECOWAS protocol, people will bring their rice products to their region, re-bag them and bring them into Nigeria. The reason is that under the ECOWAS protocol, goods produced within the sub-region can have free access to any market within the region.
“Based on that, those from Thailand would go to Benin Republic with their parboiled rice, re-bag them as though they were produced in Benin Republic and then smuggle them into Nigeria thereby denying the people of Benin the opportunity to grow rice and benefit from the Nigerian market. Because of that, we have engaged the government of Benin Republic, up to the presidential level.
“The president had to invite the president of Benin Republic to engage him because we are neighbours; let’s see how we can work together and curb this issue of smuggling.”
The IFAD country representative, Ms Ndine Gbossa, in her remarks disclosed that the executive board of the fund recently approved additional financing for Nigeria in the value chain development programme to the tune of $89 million, which brought the total investment in the programme to $228 million, for supporting rice and cassava production.
This, she stated, was in addition to another $60 million for supporting the Niger Delta Youth known as the Alive for Niger Delta fund.