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Food Security: Nigerian rice processors urge incoming administration to sustain agricultural policies

*The Rice Processors Association of Nigeria lauds President Muhammadu Buhari, CBN for rice policy initiatives, and urges Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President-elect, to sustain agricultural policies, as the country now boasts over 100 large-scale integrated rice processing facilities, contributing millions of direct and indirect employments with good quality, affordable local rice brands

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

As part of measures to advance the implementation of the Federal Government’s initiative to grow local capacity in rice production and ensure sustainable food security, the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) has called on Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President-elect, to sustain ongoing initiatives on food production for economic development.

ConsumerConnect reports Mr. Andy Ekwelem, Director-General of RIPAN,  made the call at a press conference in Abuja, FCT.

Photo collage of some Nigerian rice brands

The theme of RIPAN’s conference was, “Strategies for Deepening and Strengthening the Nigeria Rice Sub-Sector towards More Sustainable Development”.

Ekwelem described RIPAN as an association of investors in integrated rice processing, formed as a direct response to the Federal Government of Nigeria’s deliberate initiative to grow local capacity in rice.

RIPAN’s contributions to national economy, by Ekwelem

The Director-General stated: “Members of the association, and indeed, other actors in the rice processing and milling sub-sector are presently key players and major contributors to the growth of the Nigerian economy.

“Our processing and milling activities contribute several thousands of direct employments and millions of indirect employments to the various stakeholders in the rice value chain and other complementary sectors.”

According to him, the Nigeria rice industry is the single largest employer of labour, providing jobs for over 13 million people.

Ekwelem also disclosed “these include direct staff, casual worker, haulage service providers, agrochemical and input suppliers and of course millions of small holder rural farmers who are made up of majorly youths and women.”

Ekwelem stressed the rice industry in the country has enjoyed considerable support from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Before the current administration, Nigeria officially allowed imported rice into the country.

“As at the last quarter of 2014, official rice import into Nigeria from Thailand was about 1.24 million tonnes of rice; by the end of 2015, these imports had dropped to about 644,131meric tonnes, and by the end of 2016, it dropped to 58,260 metric tonnes,” he stated.

Ekwelem further said: “In 2017, the imports further dropped to 23,192 metric tonnes but by 2022, it dropped to an all-time minimal of 438MT.

“The reason for the drops – which to us at RIPAN is a very positive development – is nothing more than Mr President’s hard stand approach against food importation.”

Appreciating Buhari for his agricultural development initiatives, he noted that the current administration has boosted food production over the years.

The RIPAN Director-General as well said: “Recall that President Buhari is a strong advocate of ‘grow what you eat and eat what you can grow.’ ”

CBN’s agricultural intervention initiatives via ABP, others

Ekwelem also recalled in order to “ensure that he (Buhari) walked his talk, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), he launched various programmes that encouraged local production and processing of rice.

“Programme such as the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, the Paddy Aggregation Scheme, the Private Sector-Led Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme and the Real Sector Support Facility (RSSF) were floated.”

He affirmed that “they where deliberate strategies that encouraged indigenous and foreign business concerns to invest massively in the rice value chain.

“Today, Nigeria boasts of over 100 large-scale integrated rice processing facilities scattered across the country.

“This is more than 700 percent increase from the mere 13 integrated mills operating in the country between 2010 and 2014.”

RIPAN also commended Buhari for his various initiatives to encourage consumption of locally produced rice.

He said: “To ensure that product dumping and other forms of international trade malpractice do not affect the huge private-sector investments as well as the various programmes of government, the CBN placed restrictions on importation of food items including rice.

“The apex bank did that by categorising them as not valid for foreign exchange from the CBN’s Foreign Exchange Window.

“To further protect and strengthen the industry, the administration introduced the Border Restriction Policy of 2020.”

On halting the regime of Nigerians consuming much of imported, expired rice, Ekwelem further acknowledged that before the border restriction policy, there was a maddening proliferation of all manner of items and food stocks, even light arms and small weapons into Nigeria.

“Fortunately, with the Border Restriction Policy of the Buhari administration, the menace was effectively stemmed between the period starting August 2020 and the end of 2021.

“As a matter of fact, over 1.2 million metric tonnes of rice imported to Benin from India and Thailand between May 2019 and August 2019, became trapped in Benin.”

He disclosed the situation “caused the imports of rice from India to Benin to drop from a monthly average of 75,000 metric tonnes between January and September 2019 to less than 2,000 metric tonnes in the last quarter of 2019.

“Also, the volume of Thai rice imported to Benin Republic fell from a monthly average of 100,000MT to 5,000MT tons by November 2019.

In terms of the overall benefits to the Nigerian economy, the RIPAN Director-General affirmed the dividend of all these is that the demand for Nigerian home grown and locally processed rice has increased quite immensely, causing an increase in both the production of paddy rice as well as rice processing facility across the West African country.

On good quality, nourishing, and affordability Nigerian rice

As regards the prices of locally-produced rice brands, Ekwelem assured consumers that Nigerian rice remains the most affordable.

The expensive rice  brands are the imported ones, which people wrongfully refer to as local rice, he noted.

Ekwelem declared: “No Nigerian rice costs more than N31,000 ex-factory price.”

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