Nigeria spent a whopping $2.41bn on rice importation just between January 2012 and May this year. This was recently made known by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele. According to him, the country was spending so much on imports, and that this informed the apex bank’s recent decision to ban forex access for importation of 41 items, as he signalled no plans to reverse the policy that had been greeted with criticism.
Emefiele spoke in Abuja during a stakeholders’ meeting with officials of Paddy Rice Producing states and Rice Value chain investors. “The reason the inclusion of rice in the exclusion list is not far-fetched. Figures available with the CBN show that from the period January 2012 to May 2015, the country had spent over $2.41bn on importation of this commodity,” he stated.
“Unfortunately, this trend has resulted in huge unsold stock of paddy rice cultivated by our farmers and low operating capacities of many integrated rice mills in Nigeria.”
Emefiele said the CBN is now to support the local production of rice, and would in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development come up with a comprehensive financing model to support rice millers and other investors in the sector.
“The CBN would make funds more accessible to the farmers through some of its funding programme such as the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme and the N220 billion Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Development fund,” Emefiele said.
The funds would be made available to the rice farmers through the Microfinance Banks at nine percent interest rate, Emefiele said, warning banks ahead against contravening the rules.
He appealed to the state governments to provide lands for the farmers on a large scale and promised that the government would work with them to clear some of these impediments, saying “we are at a stage where we must feed ourselves and all hands are in deck to ensure this works.”
The governor also said the CBN, as the bank to federal government would go after rice importers who defaulted in the payment of customs duty after bringing in excess quotas of the product into the country at concessionary rates.
By exceeding their import quota, these rice importers have flooded the local market with rice that are sold below what is produced locally thus making consumers to ignore the locally produced ones. “We are going to enforce it and we will go to the highest level to enforce this to ensure that they pay. I appeal to these companies to go and pay. You are taking a big risk and don’t wait for the big stick to be wield on you. Just go and pay,” Emefiele said.
He assured the rice producers that the bank would work closely with the Nigerian Customs Service to address the issue of smuggling.
Speaking on behalf of the ten major paddy rice producing states, the Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, explained that they would ensure to support the CBN intervention.
The states are Kebbi, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Sokoto, Ebonyi, Taraba, Zamfara, Nasarawa and Niger.
Bagudu assured the rice producers that the governors of the ten states would expand infrastructure as well as provide the right atmosphere for people to invest in rice farming.
The Permanent Secretary, FMARD, Sonny Echow, who also spoke at the event said the ministry is currently making plans for massive intervention in rice production in the forthcoming rice season. “We are proposing to the CBN to help us set up a fund for rice millers for our rice farmers and we will be making that recommendation to CBN to facilitate a long term fund.”
Earlier, the rice millers had complained that there is need to address some of the bottlenecks that is affecting the increase in rice production.
Some of the areas where they would need intervention include bigger fields for rice production, funding, access to land, establishment of more rice mills in the country, and increase in capacity of existing mills.
The rice millers requested for investment in research, irrigation facilities to replace the non-functional ones, stable rice policy that would be agreed by all stakeholders and the need to tackle smuggling.
By Pita Ochai