… say local production won’t meet Christmas demand
The Federal Commended has been commended for its decision to partially close the land borders as a way of curbing insecurity and massive smuggling activities along the land border routes.
Speaking with a section of the press recently, the Secretary General of the Rice Millers Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RIMIDAN), Muhammed Shuaib commended government’s action and said that the decision was long overdue. Adding that it depicts government’s commitment to protect rice farmers’ investments, which he said have been adversely affected by smuggling.
Stating that the association would not support a total closure of the borders, Shuaib explained that there are Nigerians operating legitimate business along the axis, and called on the government to carry out the exercise occasionally to discourage smugglers from harming the country economy.
He said, “It is a welcome development. It is long overdue because it is what we have been praying for to save the efforts of the farmers and people that have decided to invest in agriculture in our country.
“I don’t think the government is not weary of legitimate business along the borders and that is why the government say the closure is a temporary thing. The borders will be open but by then, the menace of rice smuggling would have been checked to some extent and that is the entire plan.
“We cannot subscribe to a permanent closure of the land borders but the government should occasionally carry out the exercise to discourage smugglers,” he said.
Speaking on the local farmers’ capacity to meet demands, Shuaib said local farmers like Olam and Stallion capacities had gone up with over one million tonnes in the last few months. He, however, said that the improvement won’t still be enough to cover the supply gap especially for the Christmas period.
“Every rice miller is trying to increase their capacity, so they are putting more money into the business. As I speak with you, the capacity of rice production has gone up by a million tons between OLAM, Stallion and so many rice processors in the last four months and that is what the government is trying to protect,”
“We may not be able to meet with the demand entirely especially for the Christmas period, but again, the best way to start is to start. Although capacity has gone up, it is still not enough to cover the supply gap. What we have will go at least 80 per cent of the need and about 20 per cent shortfall. The only thing we can do is to keep encouraging investors to put money into farming,” he said.
Shuaib however, said that members of the association have been warned not to take advantage of the situation to increase the price of the commodity above the normal price.
“We have warned our members that they should not because of the gap increase prices arbitrarily. We have warned them that no rice should be above N16,000 because we hear in some areas; people are selling for about N21,000,” he said.