Some rice traders in Lagos have lamented the inability of local rice farmers to meet the growing demand for the produce. The traders spoke in separate interviews with NAN on Wednesday in Lagos.
The Federal Government recently reaffirmed its commitment to increasing local production of wheat, rice, maize, sorghum and soyabean, through the provision of relevant farm inputs.
John Nwabueze, a foodstuff trader at Alimosho, lamented the growing cost of the produce and the inability of locally grown rice to meet rising demands. He, however, noted that the quality of locally grown rice had improved and could stand at par with foreign rice. “If the closure of the border is completely enforced, Nigerians will have no choice but to stick to locally grown rice.
“When smuggled rice is scarce, then we will wholly embrace our home-grown rice. “Local rice farmers may not initially be able to meet the growing demands of rice if the borders are watertight shut but gradually, they will meet up.”
He said that the reason why most Nigerians patronised foreign rice was the poor awareness of the benefits of local rice. “We have very good local rice brands without stones and well-polished but Nigerians are used to foreign rice. “When we started eating Nigerian rice when the border was initially closed, we had a lot of poorly processed rice in the market. “But now the situation has changed; however, most customers insist that they would rather buy expensive rice than buy local rice. “We want the government to either completely enforce the closure of the borders and put an end to smuggled rice or officially open the borders for legal rice imports,” he said.
Temitayo Abdulhakeem, another rice trader, said though the quality of Nigerian rice improving, it was insufficient to meet growing local demands. “If the borders are completely shut and no infiltration of rice into the country, local farmers may not be able to meet the demands. “If we cannot even get smuggled rice, it will be more difficult for Nigerians. “When the borders were initially shut down, and we had no access to foreign rice, we witnessed a daily rise in the price of rice.
“How many Nigerian rice brands do we have? We have only five brands that are of good quality. “We seek the opening of the borders for legal importation of rice but that does not mean the price will drop drastically. “It is just that we will have more people importing and the monopoly of the few importers will be broken,” Abdulhakeem said. He added that the traders had not been able to access foreign rice recently.
A 50kg bag of short grain rice sells for N54,000 while the long grain rice bag sells for N65,000 to N66,000; Nigerian rice sells for between N49,000 and N50,000 per bag.