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Covid-19 pandemic, flooding block Lake Rice supply

…spent N20billion on Imota mill

Abisola Olusanya, Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture has attributed the absence of lake rice across markets in the state to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the flooding incidence that destroyed thousands of hectares of rice farm in Kebbi – a key partner of the initiative.

Olusanya who made this known at a recent ministerial press briefing in commemoration of the second anniversary of the state government noted that Lake rice will still soon return to the shelves of traders as Lagos continues to seek ways to beat down prices of the competing grains from the borders.

“Lake rice is still in existence. Covid-19 and flooding in the key producing state affected production and supply of paddy,” she said.

Lake rice is an initiative that was born out of the partnership agreement entered between Lagos and Kebbi state governments in 2016.

Since then, the state has constantly supply lake rice to its citizenry especially during festive seasons, however, the state failed to supply lake rice last year owing to the virus outbreak.

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Speaking on the partnership between Lagos and Kebbi, the commission noted that the partnership is still very much in place, adding that with the near completion of Imota mill the deal will shift from the supply of milled rice to paddy.

“The Kebbi state agreement was to be able to have access to rice and it is still very much in place and part of the agreement is that if Lagos set up its mill the contract will shift from receiving processed rice to receiving paddy,” she said.

“Lagos sees value in rice production to be able to beat down prices of competing rice coming through our borders while kebbi see value in having an off-taker for its rice and to grow their economy especially in rice-growing areas,” she said.

She said that subsidizing lake rice for Lagosians comes at a huge taxpayers’ cost, noting that the state would not want to sustain the trend of subsidizing food at the expense of the private sector participants.

“You have to try and find a balance between ensuring that private sector players can flourish as well as be able to provide jobs for the citizenry. There has to be that balance also at play,” she said.

“If market forces are still able to fill the gap, then the government will sit back and allow the private sector to fill in the demand required,” she added.

Speaking on the Imota rice mill, Olusanya said that the state had estimated N25million for the construction of the Imota mill but has spent N20 billion so far on the world-class mill.

She attributed the increased cost to foreign exchange volatility and the timeline. “From inception till date we have spent N20billion and what was slated was estimated N25millionon the Imota rice mill. But looking at the timeline and the exchange rate, the cost of putting up that mill has gone up but this is what is spent so far.”

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