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Babatunde Ajibola, head media and communications, Elephant Group Plc, on Friday in Lagos said that massive rice smuggling into the country was threatening the confidence and ability of local rice millers and farmers.

Ajibola said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the outcome of rice stakeholders meeting on Thursday in Lagos.

He noted that a visit to major rice markets, such as Iddo, Daleko, Ketu, Mile 12, Alaba and Sango-Ota, revealed that the various brands on display were imported with few or no local ones.

“This unprecedented flooding of the nation’s major markets with smuggled imported rice is of great concern to investors in rice, Agro companies and farmers in spite of government’s ban on the products.

“We highlighted at the stakeholders meeting we just-concluded now, that almost all the varieties of rice in the market presently are foreign and they come through the land borders.

“This is happening in spite of the fact that the importation of the product by land is prohibited.

“Smuggling of foreign rice into the country has become a big business which calls for a serious attention,” he told NAN.

“The influx of smuggled rice has rendered local rice milling companies and farmers inactive as the local rice produced are not patronised due to difference in their prices.

“This of course, does not encourage local production or help in boosting investors’ confidence in the rice industry.”

Ajibola noted that rice smuggling into the country would soon translate into massive job loss for Nigerians working in the local rice production companies.

He called on the Federal Government to put a stop to the massive smuggling of rice into country if its quest to encourage local production was anything to by.

Ajibola said that millers and farmers had invested heavily on the local production of rice in line with the government agricultural plan.

He said the Federal Government’s plan to boost local production of rice by placing ban on the importation of foreign rice might not work as local rice would not be able to compete with foreign rice.

Ajibola said that while smugglers were smiling to the bank, major Nigerian key players in the local rice business were gnashing their teeth and slipping into debt.

He said that smuggled rice also posed serious health hazard for consumers as some had expired and did not undergo adequate quality standards check to certify them good for consumption.

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