The Rice Millers, Importers, Distributors Association of Nigeria (RIMIDAN) has again expressed concern over the continuous smuggling of rice through the land borders in spite of the existing ban on the commodity through the border.
It was gathered that even at the nation’s seaport where shippers can import the commodity, the federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had in the last three years restricted issuance of Form ‘M’ to rice importers, an indication that majority of the rice at the Nigerian market are smuggled rice.
The festive season is usually the peak of the business with various markets including Sango, Daleko and others along the Badagry Expressway, Seme stocked the commodity as many Nigerians depends more on the consumption of rice.
Secretary of the association, Shuiab Muhammmed who spoke in a chat with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, laments that business of rice smuggling is still growing and appearing increasingly unabated at the land border despite the effort of farmers to increase local rice production.
He said the situation is worse- off as according to him, foreign rice accounts for over 60 percent of rice in the markets adding that the benefit to smuggling is even higher because Nigeria is no more legally importing rice.
“All the foreign rice in the markets is smuggled rice except for the local ones. Nigerian rice in the market is just about 40 percent.
“If CBN has not issued form ‘M’ in the last three years, it means that nobody has been able to import rice legally because for you to do that you must have a Form ‘M’. It then means that no foreign rice should be in the Nigerian market today.
“So it is smuggled rice that has taken over. It is so bad that some importers, even well know companies in Nigeria went to Benin Republic, import rice through Benin and smuggle it through Nigeria.
“The CG of customs said their hands are tight because they cannot go to the market and arrest people with 20 bags and that is what the smugglers have taken advantage of. Smuggled rice doesn’t come in huge quantity of trailer load but it comes in small batches of just 20 bags. If you move around Isolo, you will see all of them from Idiroko heading through Daleko to offload.
“They are so well known that police and other security agencies know them and as they go in convoy nobody stops them. By the time you have a thousand of such small vehicles, and do two trips a day, that is more than a ship load,” he said.
Muhammed added that the difference in the price of local rice which currently sells for N15, 000 per 50 kg bag while foreign rice sells for N13, 000 per bag has also given added impetus to the smuggling of the staple food.
“When the benefit for rice smuggling goes high, then smuggling goes up as well. Right now the benefit to smuggle is high because Nigeria is no more legally importing rice .Nigeria demand on rice is about 7million tonnes and the local production stands between 4million to 5 million tonnes. So there is a two million tonnes supply gap and that is what the Nigerian farmers should be striving to catch up with to produce more but this what the smugglers are also taking advantage of to smuggle at a reduced price.
“The differential in price is close to N2000 unlike before when the difference will be just N500. But now with a difference of N2000, the urge to smuggle will be higher.
“It is really affecting rice farmers and we have made lots of people invest in rice farming and get a lot of people interested in farming but right now, people are not encouraged anymore because of the price the smuggled rice are sold for,” he said.
He said while the restriction of rice through the land border is laudable, the government should do more to address rice smuggling by engaging the government of the countries through which the commodity is being smuggled in to the country through diplomatic means.
“The ban is beautiful because we have to grow our farms. As we speak about three mills in Thailand have shut down because Nigerian are not coming to buy rice from them which means we are creating jobs in the country.
“We have the resources and all it takes to produce the rice and safe foreign exchange and get employment but government should do more by taking on the countries where the rice comes in through Nigeria diplomatically,” he said.