Mixed reactions as Nigeria sets to unveil 1.2m bags rice pyramid
As Nigeria’s federal government gets set to unveil a 1.2m bags of rice pyramid Tuesday, there are also wide concerns over heightening price of the commodity in the local market.
The pyramid which would be unveiled in a fanfare ceremony in Abuja with at least presidents of three neighbouring countries confirmed to be attending is said to be the world’s largest rice pyramid. In Nigeria, a 50kg bag of rice costs between N23,000 and N27,000.
“Everybody is aware that the prices of rice are still very high in the market and we don’t expect much from this event, they are just using this for show,” Iyabo Adekunle, a local rice seller at the lugbe market noted.
Businessday gathered that the Abuja rice pyramid was put in place as part of the national rice festival and the sixth year commemoration of the strategic rice partnership between the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN and the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN.
The RIFAN Vice President, Emmanuel Anoh described the program as laudable, being an ongoing nationwide program.
He disclosed that similar programs had been carried out in Niger, Kebbi, Gombe, Taraba and Ekiti states, with others scheduled to take place in Cross Rivers and Enugu states, in due course.
“ What you are witnessing in Abuja is just a tip of the iceberg and it is about 0.01percent of the total harvest by rice farmers in Nigeria, this year,” in a chat with Businessday.
Anoh revealed that the rice is a repayment by farmers for the loans advanced to them by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, under the anchor borrowers program.
“ At the end of this exercise, we will sell this rice to rice millers, at a very cheap price”
Anoh, while providing further explanations for holding the event at the nation’s capital, noted that it is intended to further crash the price of rice in the markets.
“ We are moving round the country to let Nigerians know that we have the capacity to feed ourselves as part of the federal government food sustainability program”
Anoh who lamented the high prices of the staple food in the Nigerian market, blamed the high prices of what he described as the “ activities of unpatriotic rice sellers who hoard the produce to make more profits”
“ It is expected that when they see these huge quantities of rice, hoarders will have no choice but to release the products hidden in their warehouses, which will hopefully further help to crash prices” he said.
“ This is part of President Muhammadu Biharis agenda to end hunger, enhance rice production, strengthen food security, generate employment and create wealth for Nigerians” he said
“What we have here is 1.2m bags of rice and we are here to celebrate the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure self-sufficiency in rice production.
The President had launched the anchor borrower program to assist smallholder farmers.
Anoh revealed that a “ recent global assessment has put Nigeria as the highest producer of rice and we want to sustain that. Right now, we have about 12 million rice farmers who have been empowered by the CBN
Anoh noted that efforts were to address the nation’s rice production challenges, which said include high cost of inputs, as farmers aim towards increasing production to 80 bags one heater, 80 bags per hectare.
“Mr President is doing so much to ensure provide security and his Agro Rangers program has helped the farmers to deal with insecurity and sustain productivity”
“ These middlemen buy at the farms but hoard for more profits, thereby creating artificial scarcity which is largely responsible for high prices of rice in our markets.
But as part of efforts to crash the price, the rice will be sold directly to the millers and we hope this will help to control the prices.
Commenting on domestic rice production, however, the President of Abuja Farmers Association, Obaje David, noted that not so much has been achieved in rice production by the indigenous rice farmers, especially in the last farming season.
He said every Nigerian is eagerly awaiting the aftermath of the launch of the rice pyramid, even though it is looking like a ‘political jamboree’ that may not yield any benefit to Nigerians.
He said, “with the rain pattern of last farming season, our farmers did not produce so much for us to have as much produce that is displayed in that pyramid.
“If we have produced so much, we should not be paying as high as we are paying right now to purchase rice. Our farmers are suffering.
“The government wants to use the pyramid to show what we can produce, but it has not been translated in reality. And I’m not sure this may lead to any drop in the price of rice soon.”