Nigerian government raises hope that the price of rice, which has been skyrocketing, will crash by November
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Oct 24, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT |
DESPITE the Nigeria Customs Service saying it has not lifted its embargo on rice importation through the nation’s land borders, the Nigerian government has declared that the price of the commodity will start to fall from November this year. This is because more Nigerians had returned to their various farms and the next harvesting season starting from next month is expected to increase supply of paddy to the market leading to a crash in the price.
The government also said that the delay in the approval of the 2016 budget had made it impossible to implement the capital expenditure in the agricultural sector. Audu Ogbeh, minister of agriculture and rural development, said this while addressing members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development at the headquarters of the ministry in Abuja.
Ogbeh, who stated that the government could not be involved in the importation of rice as speculated in some quarters, stressed that his ministry would not encourage rice importation because it would be detrimental to local production. He said the federal government was against rice smuggling and noted that the Seme border had become a notorious route for the smuggling of contraband products into the country.
“We will not encourage rice importation and there is no way our ministry or government can be involved in importing rice when we are working hard to be self-sufficient in local production. By November when the full-scale harvest starts, rice prices will fall,” the minister said.
On why the ministry is yet to start implementing its capital budget, Ogbeh said, “It is about now that the capital expenditure is beginning. One of the reasons why money is not circulating is that we need to follow the due process on issues of procurement, advertisement and others.”
According to him, his ministry has spent just N882.58 million, representing four per cent of the N21billion budgeted for it in the 2016 Appropriation Act. “You may be surprised to know that only six to seven states in Nigeria are showing enthusiasm in agriculture. Some by nature don’t seem interested, while others just can’t connect with whatever we are doing at the federal level.”
Ogbeh also stated that his ministry inherited N67 billion debts when the present administration came on board, but added that N20 billion had been paid to agro-dealers and distributed 900 million oil palm seedlings to farmers across the country.
Early last month, the government had warned that the price of rice might hit N40,000 a bag. It is currently being sold around N20,000. Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, minister of state for agriculture and rural development, said that the $22 billion annual food import bill had led to the astronomical rise in the price of rice and other commodities. He stressed that if Nigerians failed to produce some of the items being imported before December, the price of rice could skyrocket to N40,000 a bag.
Also, the Nigeria Customs Service had on Sunday, October 9, dismissed as untrue a report, which was circulated online on Saturday that the ban on rice importation through land borders had been lifted. Wale Adeniyi, deputy controller and public relations officer of the NCS, described the report as the handiwork of manipulators who culled part of an interview granted the News Agency of Nigeria by the NCS in October 2015 and circulated same as a fresh report.
Adeniyi said, “The report was published last year. It was an interview that we granted NAN and the rice merchants picked it, refurbished and circulated it as news. A few days before the report circulated online, we had held a press conference to announce that Nigeria had produced enough rice and there was no need for importation. So, how can we then turn around and lift the ban on rice importation?”