The Federal Government has raised the alarm over the high rate of foreign rice smuggling into the country through the land borders, despite huge local production.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammad Abubakar, expressed worry at the weekend in Abuja, during a steering committee meeting made up of representatives from the Ministry of Finance, Nigerian Customs, Nigerian Civil and Security Defense Corps and Federal Competition Consumer Protection Commission.
Abubarkar, however, noted that government would continue to devise means to tackle the problem so as to unlock economic opportunities for rice investors in the country.
In a statement by a Principal Information Officer, Obe Mbosire Mabel, he said: “The ministry is very concerned about the increase in smuggling and has convened this meeting to discuss critical issues in order to strategize and come up with concrete measures to enable the committee carry out its duties effectively.
“The resumed smuggling of foreign rice, especially through the land borders is constituting a serious threat to these achievements.
“Therefore, if the smuggling is left unchecked it will jeopardize all government efforts to enhance the domestic rice industry and make them ineffective.”
He noted that the Federal Government and private sectors “have invested a lot of resources in rice production and processing over the years because of the government commitment to the development of the sub-sector through its various interventions.
“The Ministry has been supporting farmers especially smallholders and rice processors with quality seeds of improved varieties, production and processing machinery and equipment including the provision of modern rice mills of various capacities, per boiler, dryers, colour sorters in order to boost rice production and improve the quality and market competitiveness of domestic rice.”
According to him, “Nigerian rice industry had recorded significant progress in terms of investment due to an increase in the quality and quantity of the milled rice and it has, in turn, increased the competitiveness, consumer preference and patronage of our milled rice.
“There is no better time than now to maintain the rice production momentum in order to achieve self-sufficiency for food and nutrition security, job creation, wealth generation and import substitution.”
The Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, Col Hameed Ali (rtd), assured Nigerians that the committee would present and deliberate on curbing insecurity and smuggling of rice into the country.
Ali admitted that “the Nigerian Customs Service cannot fight alone in the Operation of the border patrol but needs other security agencies such as the Nigerian Civil Defense Corps to beef up the joint operations of the Taskforce.”