The Rice Millers, Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RIMIDAN), has commended the Federal Government for its decision to partially close the land borders as a way of checking insecurity and massive smuggling activities especially of rice taking place along the border routes.
Speaking with SHIPS & PORTS, Secretary General of the Association, Muhammed Shuaib, said the initiative, although long overdue, is a demonstration of government desire to protect investment of rice farmers, which he said have been adversely affected by smuggling.
He said while the association would not subscribe to a total closure of the borders as there are Nigerians operating legitimate business along the axis, such exercise should be carried out occasionally to discourage smugglers from their nefarious activities.
“It is a welcome development. It is long overdue because it is what we have been praying for to safe the efforts of the farmers and people that have decided to invest in agriculture in our country.
“I don’t think the government is not weary of legitimate business along the borders and that is why the government say the closure is a temporary thing. The borders will be open but by then, the menace of rice smuggling would have been checked to some extent and that is the entire plan.
“We cannot subscribe to a permanent closure of the land borders but government should occasionally carry out the exercise to discourage smugglers,” he said.
When asked if local farmers would have the capacity to meet demands and fill the gap that absence of smuggled rice would create, Shuaib said although capacity has gone up with over one million tonnes produced by Olam and Stallion in the last few months, it would not still be enough to cover the supply gap especially for the Christmas period.
“Every rice miller is trying to increase their capacity, so they are putting more money into the business. As I speak with you, the capacity of rice production has gone up by a million tons between OLAM, Stallion and so many rice processors in the last four months, and that is what the government is trying to protect,”
“We may not be able to meet with the demand entirely especially for the Christmas period, but again, the best way to start is to start. Although capacity has gone up, it is still not enough to cover the supply gap. What we have will go at least 80 percent of the need and about 20 percent shortfall. The only thing we can do is to keep encouraging investors to put money into faming,” he said.
He assured that members of the association have been warned not to take advantage of the situation to increase price of the commodity above the normal price.
“We have warned our members that they should not because of the gap increase prices arbitrarily. We have warned them that no rice should be above N16,000 because we hear in some areas; people are selling for about N21,000,” he said.