In order to show support for government’s decision to close the country’s border at Seme to rice smuggling, rice processors in Nigeria have pegged the retail price of rice at not more than N15,000.
Addressing journalists in Abuja on Thursday on the development, national Chairman of Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), Alhaji Mohammed Abubarkar Maifata said the association will sanction any rice processor (Millers) who sells above the stipulated price.
The RIPAN Chairman stated that the ex-factory price of per-boiled rice, which Nigerians consume has been pegged at between N13,300 and N14,000 while the final retail price has been marked off at N15,000.
The association, he noted, has written to the federal government to express commitment to keeping the price of rice down to the barest minimum and vowed to support the government with intelligence by putting the reports of its surveillance team at the disposal of the government.
The RIPAN executives said Nigeria risks the losing over $400 million to rice smuggling if the over one million metric tonnes of the commodity is allowed to enter the country from Benin Republic.
Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Maifata and his vice chairman, Mr Paul Eluhaiwe disclosed that they have carried out intensive border and port survey.
The RIPAN boss disclosed that about half a million metric tonnes of the commodity have already been booked in Thailand for onward journey to Nigeria preparatory to the Christmas season.
This, according to the chairman, would no doubt have a crippling effect on rice processors in the country as their activities would be hampered if this impending illegal importation is not checked with the attendant colossal loss of over $400 million.
According to him, the closure of the Nigerian Benin Republic border would go a long way to curb the menace of rice smuggling so that local producers would have a breather, adding that the association supports the current border closure by government.
The association assured Nigerians that they have tasked themselves to close the gap in rice supply in the market as a result of the border closure, stating that the nation’s demand for rice which is 4 million metric tonnes per annum can be surpassed with the over 5 million metric tonnes jointly supplied by members of the association and outgrowers.
Mohammed Abubarkar lamented that “from January to date over 1 million metric tonnes of rice have been brought into Benin Republic from Thailand and India most of which end up in Nigeria illegally.
He noted that almost all of the rice imported into Benin Republic end up in Nigeria because Benin Republic nationals eat white rice while Nigerians eat per-boiled rice which are imported into Benin Republic.
By closing the border, RIPAN members say “rice mills are now back in operation at almost 100% installed capacity and given the favourable rainfall this year, we expect improved paddy production.”
Mohammed Abubarkar said the association has been clamouring for the closure of the borders to smugglers for over two years and promised that they “will not hike the price of rice.”
Mr Femi Adesina, the President’s spokesman in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, said President Buhari expressed great concern over the smuggling of rice when he met with President of Benin Republic in Japan.
The president said the activities of the smugglers threatened the self-sufficiency already attained due to his administration’s agricultural policies.
According to Buhari “now that our people in the rural areas are going back to their farms, and the country has saved huge sums of money which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using our scarce foreign reserves. We cannot allow smuggling of the product at such alarming proportions to continue,” he said.
The Nigerian President said the limited closure of the country’s western border was to allow Nigeria’s security forces develop a strategy on how to stem the dangerous trend and its wider ramifications.
Earlier, President Talon of Benin Republic had said he called on the Nigerian President as a result of the severe impact the closure of the Nigerian border was having on his people.
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