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Nigeria’s 2017 rice import bill may exceed $3.5bn despite production claims, experts say



Nigeria’s 2017 rice import bill may exceed $3.5bn despite production claims, experts say

Despite expectations that Nigeria would be 60 per cent self-sufficient in rice production by 2017, indications are that actualising such a dream is unrealistic as more will be spent on rice importation in 2017.

Investigations revealed that those behind the importation of the stable food item into the country have been working behind the scenes with foreign interest groups to undermine efforts aimed at reducing importation of the commodity.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) confirmed that Nigeria between 2014 and 2016 spent about $3.5 billion on rice importation.

Even the much-hyped success said to have been recorded by the model, between the Kebbi and Lagos states tagged LAKE Rice, may have run into hitches, further underscoring the need to import to meet local consumption needs.

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According to Mr. Yomi Fadeyi, an Agro economist, till date, massive importation of rice and other food items are still ongoing, which means that there is yet to be a concerted programme to make Nigeria self-sufficient, as far as food production is concerned.

Many farmers in most rice producing states, including Kebbi, Ebonyi, Adamaya and Benue, complain of not being able to access the accelerated loan facilities of between N500, 000 and N12 million, depending on scope of farming, promised them by government.

One of the aggrieved farmers, Alhaji Hussain, a resident of Argungu said he was only given N40, 000, without the water pumping machine (engine) and other items listed on the loan agreement.

The worst scenario is the failure, which is also facing one of the oldest local rice productions programmes- the FADAMA rice project, described by many as the only scheme that was giving imported rice a challenge.

But reports say there has been a fresh challenge facing the project as scarcity of land has been identified.

In Ondo State, the farmers said the project was more on paper than on ground in the past 10 years that government claimed it had taken more than keen interest in its growth.

Chairman, Ondo State Agricultural Commodities Association (OSACA), Chief Akin Olotu, described the efforts of the state government since its creation on February 3, 1976 in the production of rice as deceitful.

The major limiting factor here, is land, which he said is limiting cultivation, emphasizing that the total package of rice produced in the state is not enough because the feed mill promised to be modernized for that process had not been delivered.

“The price of a bag of Chinese rice, which we sell here is cheaper than any of the local product,” disclosed a rice merchant in Daleko, a Lagos-based rice market.

But the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, speaking through one of his aides, Vincent Adulaka said there is no change in the revolution that the sector has been subjected to.

“For a country that has never given enough concern to being self reliant in food in the past decade to have everything changed within a space of less than two years will be a magic. But as policy makers, we are following things up and are expecting results very soon”, he said.

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