Rice Farmers Commend FG Over Efforts To Stop Importation

The Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) has commended the Federal Government for its plans to stop the importation of rice by shutting its border with a neighbouring country to reduce rice smuggling into the country.

Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, the President of RIFAN, expressed gratitude on Wednesday in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja while reacting to the statement of Chief Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, concerning plans to close the border because of large-scale rice smuggling into Nigeria through the unnamed country.

Goronyo said that the move had become imperative in view of the current rice revolution in many states across the country and the strategic interventions which some Federal Government agencies had initiated.

He said that if adequate measures were not taken to stop the activities of the smugglers, they would have adverse effects on the expected bumper rice harvests in the country, while creating a glut.

“It is a step in the right direction to ensure self-sufficiency, enable the country to make progress, crash the market prices of locally produced rice and make the huge investment on rice production to be more meaningful,’’ he said.

Goronyo said that although rice importation through the land borders was banned since April 2016, rice smugglers still engaged in the unwholesome act.

He said that even before now, RIFAN and the Nigeria Customs Service had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to curb rice smuggling into the country through land borders.

The RIFAN president said that the joint efforts had reduced the activities of the smugglers, adding that the smuggled rice in the country, which largely came in through the informal sector, was just five per cent of what the citizens consumed.

“Any smuggler bringing rice into the Nigerian market would have to think twice because it is no longer a profitable venture, as the landing cost of a 50kg. bag of imported rice is now N20, 000.

“So calculate how much the rice had to be sold for the venture to be a profitable one; honestly, rice smuggling is no longer a lucrative venture,’’ he said.

Goronyo said that as part of efforts to achieve the goals of the anti-rice importation policy, the Comptroller-General of Customs ordered the deployment of capable officers and men to the country’s borders to enforce the order.

He said that the Customs also re-organised its anti-smuggling patrol operations to strengthen efforts to enforce the ban on rice imports via the land borders.

He commended the efforts of the customs service to restore the confidence of RIFAN in its capacity, while assuring the country’s rice farmers of getting adequate markets for their produce.

Goronyo said that rice production in Nigeria had increased from 5.5 million tonnes in 2015 to 5.8 million tonnes in 2017.

He said that in 2015, Nigerians spent not less than N1 billion daily on rice consumption, adding that while spending had drastically reduced, rice consumption had, nonetheless, increased because of increased local production.

Goronyo said that available statistics showed that the rice consumption rate had increased appreciably, while the production rate had climaxed to 5.9 tonnes per annum.

He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for investing massively in rice production, adding that his policies had stimulated the nation’s development.

He assured Nigerians that with the sustained implementation of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, RIFAN would assiduously work towards Nigeria’s attainment of self-sufficiency in rice production by 2020

Rice Farming: 35- Man Committee Elected For Anchor Borrowers Programme

The Rice Farmers Association at Sandamu Local Governmemt Area chapter, Katsina AState has inaugurated a 35-man committee to monitor the utilisation and implementation of the Anchor Borrowers Programme in the area.

Alhaji Unman Nalado, the Chairman of the association, announced this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Sandamu on Tuesday. Nalado explained that the committee consisted of two sub committees at Local Government and polling units cluster levels.

He said that the local government committee comprised 25 members, including traditional rulers, the district heads and the ward heads to ensure close monitoring and implementation.

The chairman added that the polling unit cluster commttee comprised 10 persons mandated to report any act of diversion of the agricultural implements given to the registered farmers.

According to him, 670 farmers received the agricultural implement which includes bags of fertilizers, herbicides, seedlings, sprayers and water pumping machines.

Nalado noted that the number of the hectare registered against the name of an individual farmer determined the quantity of the implements to be provided to him which would be repaid with bags of paddy rice after one year.

He called on the farmers to make judicious use of the implements, to generate employment and boost food security

No fewer than 431 farmers in Sandamu benefited from the programme in 2017.


The Rice War: How Asian Rice Importers Sabotage Nigeria’s Rice Policy By Mustapha Ogunsakin

Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, must by now have understood what it means to fight the rice mafia in Nigeria. For about a week now, he has been in the eye of the storm over comments reportedly credited to him, relating to the fact that seven rice mills had closed shop in Thailand on account of the drop in the importation of rice by Nigeria.

Apart from the response of Thailand Ambassador to Nigeria, Wattana Kunwongse, denying remarks that rice mills are collapsing in the Asian country; many people had gone to town, particularly on the social media, to castigate the minister for telling lies. This was done rather than viewing the statement credited to the minister in the context that Nigeria is involved in a trade war that dates back many decades.

Kunwongse, in a statement, said: “The report is not only misleading but a distortion of the actual conversation between myself and the honourable minister of agriculture at the federal ministry of agriculture and rural development.” He narrated how he “praised President Buhari’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), the essence of which is the endeavour to move the country to a self-sufficiency and export-oriented economy, and to that worthy cause, Thailand stands ready to work closely with the Nigerian government in the field of technological transfer and agricultural machineries.”

It seems relevant and necessary to ask how the exporting country hopes to benefit from assisting an importing country in technological transfer and agricultural machineries that will end up stopping the latter from continuing to depend on the former. Some issues raise questions of correlation and causation. What the ambassador did not explain is how his country exported 1,647,387 metric tonnes of rice to Republic of Benin in 2017 alone. Mr Kunwogse also did not mention that Thailand’s export of rice to Benin Republic has been steadily on the increase, 805,765MT in 2015, and 1,427,098MT in 2016, while official export from Thailand into Nigeria was steadily declining.

Nigeria has an estimated 180 million people while the population of Republic of Benin is about 11 million people. In 2014, 1,239,810MT was imported into Nigeria. It declined to 644,131MT in 2015, and to 58,260MT in 2016, reaching an all-time low of 23,197MT in 2017, and if this trajectory remains on a downward path, Nigeria may not be importing rice by 2020. The flow of rice exported from major Asian origins to Benin for onward shipment to Nigeria is a factor that should not be ignored in the regional rice trade in West Africa.

ECOWAS data indicate that over half of the rice Benin imports is sold into the Nigerian market. Port of Cotonou statistics show about 2.4 million metric tons (MMT) of cereals arriving at the port in 2014, over half of which is rice. USDA data shows about 700,000 MT of net rice and wheat imports, coming under lower duties, another reason for the large volumes of cereals transiting from Benin Republic to Nigeria. Rice is by far the most important commodity for the Benin Food Importers Association.

This should be a cause for concern as Nigeria consumes parboiled rice exclusively, but Benin prefers white rice. Rice consumption in Nigeria is almost entirely of parboiled rice. In West Africa only Nigeria consumes parboiled rice. Other West African countries, including all the neighboring countries to Nigeria (Niger, Benin, Cameroon, Chad) are not consumers of parboiled rice. In Africa only South Africa is the other major country that consumes parboiled rice.
The shipments of parboiled rice from India and Thailand into Lome, Cotonou and Douala ports is a very fair estimate of smuggled rice into Nigeria as none of these countries have internal consumption of parboiled rice. All the parboiled rice exported to these countries finally find their way into Nigeria. Consumption of parboiled rice by Nigeria’s neighbours like Togo, Sierra-Leone, and Niger Republic is not significant as parboiled rice is not part of their staple food. So where is this humongous rice import meant for?

Smuggling of parboiled rice from across the borders (mainly Benin Republic) is creating a major disaster for the rice industry in Nigeria and is upsetting the country’s economy. Will it then be correct that the exporting country is involved in the smuggling by proxy? These neighboring countries don’t consume parboiled rice! Details on this argument can be found on: https://www.proshareng.com/ news/Agriculture/Smuggling-of- Parboiled-Rice-from-Across- the-Borders/37718 .

In a few weeks, Nigerians will celebrate Easter, a very important festival for Christians in Nigeria which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the other season apart from Christmas that the demand for parboiled rice will reach its peak. Why is it now that the attack on the minister over importation of rice loudest? Much of the rice exported to Republic of Benin are expected to find their way into Nigeria at all cost, particularly through smuggling.

Investigations reveal that the rice gang has become so ruthless and sophisticated that they will stop at nothing to ensure that these goods get into the country. The smugglers who move in convoys of not less than 50 vehicles, are always battle ready and well equipped to kill anyone, including customs officials, who dare stop them. A case in point is January 17, 2018, when smugglers engaged custom officers in a gun battle at Abule-Egba, Lagos State, where the smugglers incited the people into a riot, claiming one of them was killed.
The attack on Chief Ogbeh therefore seems part of a ruthless campaign that has been going for years to ensure that Nigeria never reached self –sufficiency in rice production. Ogbeh’s predecessor in office, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, now President, African Development Bank(AfDB) was also fought to a standstill.

In July 2015, the government of Thailand announced that it has struck preliminary deals to export a total of 760,000 tonnes from its huge stockpiles to several countries in Africa. This announcement was made by the Thai Rice Exporters Association which said the rice will be supplied to Nigeria, Mozambique, and South Africa.

This was despite the restriction placed on importers of rice and other items from the official foreign exchange market by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the CBN Governor, had at that time bemoaned the high bill on rice importation which had resulted in huge unsold stock of rice cultivated by indigenous farmers as well as low operating capacities of the many integrated rice mills in the country.

But Reuters quoted Chukiat Opaswong, honorary president of the Thai association, in a phone interview from Johannesburg, saying most of the rice going to Africa is parboiled and shipments will start in September. The rice would be sold at around $430 a tonne netting the government more than $325 million, that is roughly N117 billion. Nigeria is one of the major importers of the commodity from Thailand, importing about one million tonnes of rice valued at about $700 million every year.

A research by Bloomberg then revealed that Thailand Government held around 17.8 milliom tons in stock piles and was keen on selling 10 million tons of stockpiled rice in 2015 and around seven million in 2016 through tenders. (“Thailand’s rice export to the world in 20 January-December 2017 reached 11.48 million tons equalising $5.1 billion (USD), a 15.54 per cent increase compared to previous years, which is one of the highest figures in the history of Thailand’s rice exportation). The stockpiling means the rice exported is not necessarily fresh as it is kept for years in stores and only drawn upon during the time of export.

In 2015, Dr Adesina fought the “Rice Cabal,” a group of exporters of parboiled rice from Thailand and India, to a standstill. In 2014, he warned that “Nigerian government will not allow any company to undermine its policy of food self – sufficiency”, and then added “Nigeria is not for sale”.

For over a decade, a cabal of foreign rice importers has held Nigeria by the jugular, determining the quantity of rice to be imported into the country from Asian countries such as Thailand, and India. So much was their influence that they have no regard for government’s quota of rice importation. These companies are so powerful to the extent of owing government N35.6 billion on duties from imported rice in 2014 alone, according to the former Minister. It is not clear whether these companies paid the tariff after the Buhari administration took over government.

In recent times, Nigerians have begun to patronise their own local rice which they have turned into delicacies, attracting higher prices than imported rice. Virtually all eateries across the country now serve local rice, one popularly called “ofada”. Across the cities, women with coolers take the rice to offices and sell to ready customers who pay higher price.

Nigerians are also beginning to appreciate the nutritional value and taste of their own local rice as against parboiled rice that has been laced with preservatives and warehoused for years before getting to their destinations.

Nigerians living in the city of Lagos woke up in December 2017 to the cheery news of sale of local polished rice by Lagos State government. The product, christened LAKE RICE, was a product of partnership between Lagos and Kebbi states to ensure food security and showcase the ability of Nigeria to become a food-producing nation. Over a million bags was sold. It went a long way to reduce the price of rice during the festive period. Since then many state governments have formed joint partnership in the production of rice and other staple foods.

Foreign rice importing companies are therefore experiencing serious competition from patriotic Nigerian rice growers, farmers, and even state governments who have embraced government’s rice policy and have become major investors in the local rice sector. Nigerians are taking the gauntlet and freeing themselves from shackles of dependency. Nigerians are feeding Nigerians.
The fear or competition by these Asian companies and their unwillingness to pay billions of naira to the treasury is what is driving a devious campaign against the rice quota allocations. For once, Nigeria is winning the rice rice war, and after Chief Ogbeh spoke to put this in context, hell was let loose.

Government’s rice policy is geared towards encouraging investment in local rice production and milling as government has announced the plan to distribute more small mills across the rice production zones. As Easter festivities approach, the Nigerian authorities will have their hands full in controlling imported rice from finding their way into Nigeria through smuggling. Nigerian rice producers and the entire value chain will also need to make sure local polished rice reaches the nooks and cranny of the country. States like Lagos are also expected to control the huge Lagos market by selling at subsidised rate the way they did last December. Then the words of Audu Ogbeh will be understood that the Asian Tigers are at war with Nigeria and West Africa on rice, a war Nigeria and the West African sub region must win very quickly and permanently.

Federal Government Pumps N43.92 Billion Into Rice Farming

The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Aisha Al-Hassan, in New York at Nigeria’s side event during the ongoing 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) stated that the federal government has released about N43.92 billion (122 million dollars) to 300,000 rice farmers to increase Nigeria’s rice production by additional two million tonnes in 2018.

The theme of the event was: “Achieving Economic Empowerment: Addressing women peace and security issues as a pathway for socioeconomic Independence for rural women in Nigeria”.

Mrs. Al-Hassan said: “The Agricultural Transformation Agenda is aimed at strengthening the agricultural value chain, achieving a hunger-free nation, accelerating food and nutritional security, generating employment and growing wealth for millions of farmers.

“The current Anchor Borrowers Programme of the Federal Government has released over 122 million dollars to farmers through 13 participating institutions.

“This is to spur the production of additional two million tonnes of rice in 2018 by 300,000 Rice Farmers, majority of whom are women in rural areas”.

She said the Muhammadu Buhari-led government was determined to meet the objectives of poverty eradication and the empowerment of rural women and girls for sustainable development, inherent in Agenda 2030.

According to her, the Nigerian government has taken rigorous steps to initiate and strengthen policies, institutional frameworks, systems and mechanisms aimed at achieving gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.

She said some of the implementable strategies were designed to harness the socio-economic potentials of Nigeria’s 83.3 million female population.


NGO Urges Rice Farmers To Embrace Production Technology

Prof. Sani Ahmed-Miko, Country Director, Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG 2000), when he visited some Community Demonstration plots at at Dakaiyawa village, Kaugama Local Government area, Jigawa on Wednesday advised rice farmers in the country to embrace the improved rice production technology introduced by the organisation.

Some officials of the NGO were in the area to assess performance of rice farmers who benefited from the organisation’s intervention programmes.

He said there was need for the farmers to embrace the technology because it increases productivity and yield.

He said the technology also strengthen capacities of farmers and National extension systems in Nigeria, Mali, Ethiopia and Uganda.

“The essence is to fight poverty and ensure food security; Farro 44 rice variety matures between 90 and 100 days and yield range between four to eight metric tons per hectare.

“Land preparation for rice cultivation should be fairly levelled to allow for Water retention,” he said.

The Country Director said the current strategy in agricultural technology transfer was farmer participatory and demand deriven through farmer learning platforms at community levels as a value chain concepts.

Ahmed-Miko said the visit would enable journalists and officials of NGO to hear from the beneficiaries about the improved technologies being promoted.

The coordinator of SG 2000 in Jigawa, Alhaji Musa Adamu, said no fewer than 35 extension workers were working under the organisation in the state.

He said rice farmers in the state had had accepted the planting technology and the use of improved rice seeds.

“Rice farmers in the state are adopting the technologies and based on their assessment they are seeing improvement.”

He commended the farmers for adopting the new transplanting pattern and spacing between plant and the line as this allows for easy application of fertilizer.


Hope For Nigerian As Minister Vows Plans Would Stop Rice Importation

The Federal Government has commended the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over the completion of rice mill in Elele-Alimini, Emuoha Local Government Area of Rivers.

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr. Heineken Lokpobiri, made the commendation during a meeting with NDDC and the Elephant Group in Port Harcourt on Monday.

He expressed optimism that the mill would ensure food sufficiency in the country in addition to creating thousands of jobs for youths in the Niger Delta region.

According to him, the rice mill project is part of the Federal Government’s  drive to ensure food security and end rice importation within the shortest possible time.

“Before the Buhari-led administration took office; the Federal Government spent five million dollars daily on rice importation to the country.

“NDDC has over the years started building a rice mill which has not been put to use,’’ he said.’

He explained that the government embarked on the project is because the region had potential to grow rice in commercial quantity even without fertilizer.

“The Federal Government believes that the time has come for the country to use the rice mill NDDC has built to create employment and guarantee food security for the masses.

“The Federal Government wants to make the nation to be self- sufficient in rice production at least by the year 2018,” he said.

Lokpobiri said that Elephant Group, an indigenous company, would manage the rice mill and employ thousands of workers at the facility.

He called on state governments and stakeholders to key into the Federal Government’s drive to ensure rice sufficiency in the country.

The Managing Director of NDDC, Mr Nsima Ekere, said that the commission spent N1.5 billion on the rice mills in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states.

He said that facilities, completed 10 years ago, were left to rot by previous governing boards and management of the commission.

Prices Of Food To Fall Soon: Ogbeh

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has given Nigerian hope concerning the prize of food in the country, promising that it will fall soon. He disclosed that the Federal Government will stop

He disclosed that the Federal Government will stop the importation of rice this year. Explaining the reason behind the policy, Ogbeh hinted that the country has enough internal production that can sustain home consumption and meet foreign exchange earnings that can guarantee diversification of the economy.

Audu Ogbeh In order to further boost internal production of the commodity and enhance the country’s comparative advantages in rice and yam production, Ogbeh stated that the federal government will sign a memorandum of understanding with Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD) and Ekiti State Government in the two critical sectors.

“Of recent, prices of diesel increased from N130 pr litre to about N280, which makes the cost of tractors to move up to N14 million from N7 million. The interest rate on every loan given to farmers also went up, so the aggregate of all these factors caused an increase in the prices of food items. “We are concerned with the plights of Nigerians. We knew that many are hungry but we are working around it because it doesn’t speak well of us in government that people are hungry.”



Why We Banned Imported Rice In Ebonyi —Gov Umahi

Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, in an interview with Collins Nnabuife who recently visited the state, explained why he banned the sale of imported rice in the state. He also advised the government on how to stop rice importation in the country.

Umahi said that they had decided to focus greatly on what they had to generate funds saying;

“We are known for agriculture and solid mineral, since we don’t have other means of raising our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) other than agriculture and solid mineral and of course export of human resources, so these are the reasons why we decided to focus on some of these areas that we have a comparative advantage.”

Talking about his achievement in rice production in the past two years the governor of the state said;

I must commend the minister of agriculture and rural development very highly for  his programmes of course initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari. He has done very well in terms of agricultural programmes for the state and for the nation at large.

Let me point out that the programme in agriculture have brought down the forex, before now we imported a lot of food items into the country, and you won’t forget that the dollar was rising to a dollar for N560 to N600, but when the programme in agriculture started, the dollar started falling.

I also commend the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Minister of Finance and the Chief of Staff, they have put their programmes together and the states are very well positioned to do better in agriculture.

I can say that in the area of rice production with the assistance of the Federal Government, their encouragement and their initiative, we have done quite well, we have been able to encourage farmers. We have been able to demonstrate that having one hectare of land for rice is better than being a local government councilor, so we launched One Man One Hectare in Ebonyi State, and that has really encouraged our people, we also borrowed N2 billion, N5 billion and another N3 billion from the federal government.

We want to domesticate rice production in the state, we are going beyond individual production, we are now beginning to see how we can institute rice mega cities in each local government, whereby we have 5000 hectares of land dedicated for rice production in each of our local government areas.

Already we have four mega rice mills in operation and of course you also see the private people milling with their traditional machines, we have imported another three sets of rice mills which we will install in the next three months. The idea is that before the middle of next year, we will be able to have one rice mill in each local government in the state, we have also introduced the system of standardization in terms of pricing and quality, so that when you have paddy to sell, you have to come to our buying center at the local government, so we will be able to weigh the rice and know how much you will be paid. We have prices for the different types of rice, for a particular quality of milled rice, we have a uniform price, we should also be able to monitor the quality of our rice, we are known all over the world for Abakaliki rice, we are very proud of that and we want to ensure that we maintain that standard and that rating.

Rice Farmers Urged To Increase Productivity

Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa on Thursday during a town hall meeting with people of Oshimili North Local Government Area of the state, has urged rice farmers in the state to increase their productivity so as to meet the growing demand of the citizens for rice.

He encouraged the farmers to put in more effort to boost their production, taking into cognizance the Federal Government’s plans to fully enforce its ban on rice importation.

Okowa particularly commended the people of Illah for their commitment toward rice production and urged them to take the business seriously.

“There are indications that the Federal Government will totally ban the importation of rice; therefore, our rice farmers should boost their production to meet with the needs of the people and benefit from likely incentives.

“We are taking the growing of rice very serious because the Federal Government may ban the importation of rice completely and rice farmers will benefit from Federal Government’s assistance.

“We are also encouraging our farmers to participate in the Anchor Borrowers Programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which does not only provide funds for farmers but also ensures that their products get to the market,’’ he said.

Okowa, however, noted that most farmers in the state had yet to access funding from the CBN-anchored scheme due to improper documentation.


Kaduna Rice Farmers Want Early Loans Provision

The Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Kaduna State chapter, through the Secretary Mr Ishaya Audu, has called for the early provision of loans to its members to enhance rice production during the 2017 cropping season.

Audu said that inadequate farm inputs, implements, as well as loans, had hampered rice production in the previous seasons in the state.

“Our farmers produce at a loss due to lack of access to fertilisers, agro-chemicals, high yield seeds and tractors as well as loan facilities to boost rice production,” Audu said.

He also said that members of the association did not participate in both the 2016 Federal and State Governments Anchor Borrower Programmes as it was late for wetland rice producers.

He said RIFAN members could not produce more than three tonnes of rice in a hectare in the previous years.

“With the number of rice farmers in the state, the production will yield higher if we get access to inputs needed to commence production early in the 2017 season,” Audu said.

He, however, said that the farmers were now ready to access the loan facility under the CBN Anchor borrowers programme with 7,000 members already registered.

“The implementation of the programme began in August 2016, and that time was late for wet season farmers to engage in rice production, but now we are ready,” he said.

The RIFAN secretary appealed to governments to partner with the private sector to establish milling centres in the state to process rice.