Consumers shun Nigerian rice on high cost, taste preference

Not only do Nigerians prefer imported rice varieties to local rice, they balk at the price of the grain in domestic markets, BusinessDay investigations found.
Consumers who spoke with BusinessDay attributed the low patronage of Nigeria’s rice to individuals’ unwillingness to change taste preference, high cost of the local varieties and the inability to easily find them in nearby markets.  “I am a caterer and I buy only imported rice varieties because the local rice is more expensive and have shorter grains. The imported rice varieties are less starchy with longer grains and appeals more to my customers,” Comfort Ezeonwu, a rice buyer at Mile 12 market told BusinessDay.
“Apart from Lake Rice that is subsidised by the Lagos state government, a 50 kg of other local varieties is sold between N15,000 and N16,000, while the imported varieties sells between N13,000 and N14,000. For this reason, I buy only the imported brands,” Ezeonwu said.
Nigeria is a major market for white rice with long grains, but most of the locally grown rice have shorter grains.
Another buyer at Daleko market Aderemi Odetola , told BusinessDay that she has never patronised the local rice before, saying that the imported rice is still better milled and more convenient to prepare.
“You cannot use the local rice to prepare fried rice and that is my favourite meal. I still do not believe that our local rice is properly milled so I do not buy them,” Odetola said.
Apart from consumers’ preference, pricing is another major issue responsible for low patronage. In spite of farmers getting subsidised inputs from the Federal Government through the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), an average price of a bag of rice paddy still sells for N11,250, a price that is too high for rice millers to compete relative to imported varieties.
As a result, Nigeria has continued to see high rate of smuggling of cheaper imported rice through the country’s porous borders, to meet up with the ever increasing demand mostly driven by large population growth and increasing urbanisation.
According to the USDA 2018 Grain Report on Nigeria, the country’s 2018 rice imports entering through informal cross-border channels are expected to increase by about 12 percent to 2.9 million tons, from 2.6 million tons reported in 2017 season.
“The integrated rice milling operations are unable to purchase paddy from local farmers as paddy prices are too high for products of the formal and integrated mills to be competitive relative to the imported rice smuggled through numerous informal border routes,” the USDA 2018 Grain Report for Nigeria states.
“This has continued to limit the potential for increased domestic rice production,” the report added.
BusinessDay survey at Daleko and Mile 12 domestic markets, found that only two local brands; Mama Pride and Lake Rice were available in very few stores, with imported brands flooding the entire markets.
A bag of Lake Rice sells for N13,000 while Mama Pride goes between N15,000 and N16,000 in Lagos depending on the customers bargaining ability.
“Our local rice is not competitive because of the cost of paddy which constitutes 70 percent of the total price of rice processing. Millers need to be competitive to remain in business and pricing is very vital for this to happen.
A metric ton of paddy rice now cost about N234,000 and the ABP subsidising inputs for farmers is not sustainable,” AfricanFarmer Mogaji, chief executive officer, X-Ray Farms Consulting Limited said in a response to questions.
“We need to drive down farmers production cost and we cannot do this without tractors. A lot of farmers still do not have access to tractors to clear and till their lands, resulting to manual labour that has continued to drive up their production cost,” Mogaji said.
He also added that substandard inputs had also prevented farmers from increasing their yields per hectare, saying that most input suppliers under government interventions are always providing farmers with low quality inputs.

Nigeria’s major rice cultivation states are Kebbi, Sokoto, Ogun, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra, Niger and Kogi. Planting is done in May and June, while the peak of harvest is November and December.

The current rice production is put at 5.7 million metric tons, according to a report by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), inching the country closer to the projected demand of 7 million by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.

To address the issues, stakeholders have called for sensitisation of consumers on the high nutritional value in local rice while driving down farmer’s production costs to make millers competitive.

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