Renewed smuggling activities will jeopardise local rice production gains – Minister

The Minister of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar has alleged an increase in illegal importation of rice through the land borders, stating that it currently threatens gains recorded in local rice production.

Speaking in a meeting with stakeholders in Abuja, Abubakar noted that the ban on rice importation brought about a significant rise in local rice production and unlocked economic opportunities for rice investors in the country.

According to him, “The huge improvement in the rice sub-sector needs to be sustained for the country’s economic growth as signified by the huge contribution of the agricultural sector to the nation’s Gross Domestic Production (GDP) which is in line with the Federal Government’s diversification policy.

“The resumed smuggling of foreign rice, especially through the land borders, is constituting a serious threat to these achievements. Therefore, if the smuggling is left unchecked it will jeopardize all government efforts to enhance the domestic rice industry and make them ineffective.”

He explained that the Nigerian rice industry had recorded significant progress in terms of investment due to an increase in the quality and quantity of the milled rice adding that it has, in turn, increased the competitiveness, consumer preference and patronage of locally milled rice.

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He stated that the ministry is concerned about the increase in smuggling activities and has resolved to strategize and come up with concrete measures to enable the committee to carry out its duties effectively.

“The Ministry has been supporting farmers especially smallholders and rice processors with quality seeds of improved varieties, production and processing machinery and equipment including the provision of modern rice mills of various capacities, per boiler, dryers, colour sorters in order to boost rice production and improve the quality and market competitiveness of domestic rice’’, the minister stated.

“There is no better time than now to maintain the rice production momentum in order to achieve self-sufficiency for food and nutrition security, job creation, wealth generation and import substitution,” he said.

In his remarks, Col Hameed Ali (rtd), comptroller general, Nigeria Customs Service said that the meeting has presented an avenue for the committee to deliberate and discuss curbing insecurity and smuggling of rice into the country.

He further said that the Nigerian Customs Service cannot fight alone in the Operation of the border patrol but needs other security agencies such as the Nigerian Civil Defense Corps to beef up the joint operations of the Taskforce.

Chairman, Presidential Committee on Trade Malpractice, Dahiru Ado commended the Ministry, the Nigerian Customs Service and other partners in their sustained efforts in tackling the menace of illegal rice importation through the land borders into the country.

He said his committee will continue to track vessels that bring in the rice into the country through the Benin Republic and that the companies involved will be apprehended.

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