Rice dealers on Tuesday appealed to the federal government to extend the deadline for the proposed ban on the importation of rice from 2015 to 2019.
The dealers, who made the appeal while speaking with newsmen in Asaba, the Delta State Capital, said the extension would give rice farmers ample time to prepare themselves to begin large-scale rice production.
Although they lauded the policy, they, however, argued the 2015 proposed deadline for the ban to take effect was not realistic.
According to them, if the ban goes ahead as planned, it will lead to scarcity of the commodity and worsen the hardship being experienced by Nigerians.
A rice dealer at the Asaba Ogbeogonogo modern market, Jude Eze, said: “The initiative is a very good one and a welcome development but 2015 is just by the corner. But my greatest challenge is that our local rice is not available in commercial quantity for now.
“More than 90 per cent of the rice we consume in this country is imported rice while the locally produced rice for now can hardly take care of 10 per cent of the population of the country. And if this proposed policy is implemented in 2015, it will bring about scarcity of rice in the country,” Eze said.
Another rice dealer, Phillip Orakwe, said the time for the commencement of the ban is too short, adding that the rice farmers in the country had not fully developed their strategies to guarantee commercial production of the commodity.
According to him, only some few states in the northern part of the country and in the South East were already into serious rice production.
“The quantity of rice production cannot be commensurate with the consumption demand.
“Every family in Nigeria eats rice at least three times a week and with the Nigeria population, it will be very difficult for the local rice producers in this country to take care of the demand for now,’’ he said.
Mrs Judith Ayeni urged the federal government to heed the call for extension of the time and also introduce incentives that would encourage people to go into large-scale rice production.
“When more farmers become involved in large-scale rice production, it will go a long way to boost the production of the commodity in the country. When we have local rice in large quantity in the country, the effect of the ban on the importation of rice will be minimal,’’ she added.
Ayeni also appealed to the federal government to encourage the growth of local rice mills in the country.
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