• Duty paid value N774.2m
• Govt targets 2017 for rice sufficiency
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), impounded 117,034 (50kg) bags of rice with duty paid value of N774,282,300 in the first three quarters of this year, the Comptroller-General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), has said.
Speaking at a press conference jointly organised with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in Abuja, Ali said Nigerians were duty bound to reawaken their national pride and collectively reject the insults of what importers are feeding Nigerians with.
He said with the support of patriotic Nigerians, the country will not only achieve national sufficiency in rice next year, but will be in a position to ban its importation in the years ahead.
Ali questioned the rationale of wasting scarce foreign exchange (forex) on items that could be produced locally especially at this time of recession.
He raised the question whether Nigeria should continue to tolerate its neighbors being used as staging post to sabotage her economy, insisting that the nation’s economic revival will revolve around ongoing efforts to support local production of rice to enhance food security.
The Customs chief said market intelligence indicated a fierce price war between imported and local rice, adding that available information suggests increasing preference for local rice over smuggled ones. He said at this harvesting period, the best Nigeria could do is to support the local farmers to make their products more competitive.
Ali said: “In the recent past, our collective intelligence was assaulted with dubious claims of Rice Sufficiency Gaps. Arbitrary quotas were used, more for political patronage to dump imported rice on us without the payment of correct charges.
“Our credible intelligence indicates that the promoters of this economic subterfuge are at work again. Their plan is to seek a re- introduction of the quota system to import 1.5 million metric tons through the entry points.
“We are aware of their plans and we shall be waiting for them. This year, many state governments have injected massive investment in local production. The Federal Government, through interventions by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Bank of Industry (BoI), are also investing to give momentum to the rice revolution that is progressing smoothly, he stated.
Ali said Kebbi State harvested over 700,000 MT of rice this year from irrigation farming, while a further 800,000MT is projected from rain-fed rice farming.
“With similar projections from other states across the country, this planting season, bumper harvest of rice is expected to debunk the so-called sufficiency gap being trumped up to justify rice quotas. With the support of patriotic Nigerians, we will not only achieve national sufficiency of rice in 2017, but be in a position to clamp a total ban on its importation in the years ahead.
“This therefore is our call to action; to remind ourselves about the dangers of part patronising smuggled rice. To rally all the supports we can muster for our local producers, and to support this campaign against smuggling of rice into our dear country.”
According to him, the figures of seizure do not explain the full desperation of rice importer through rice borders, as the seizures had revealed several ingenious but devilish ways of smuggling into the country what is consumed as rice.