The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar has said that if the illegal importation of rice into the country through its land borders was left unchecked, it would jeopardize all government efforts to enhance the domestic rice industry.
Dr. Mahmood announced this during the meeting of the Steering Committee of the National Taskforce on illegal Importation of Rice through the Land Borders at the Ministry’s Conference Hall, Abuja over the weekend.
TheFact Nigeria gathered that the ban on importation of rice affected the country’s Gross Domestic Production (GDP) positively.
Dr. Mahmood said the ministry was concerned about the increase in smuggling activities and had convened the meeting to discuss critical issues in order to strategise and come up with concrete measures to enable the committee carry out its duties effectively.
He posited that the ministry would continue to collaborate with other Governmental and Security agencies to reduce the illegal importation of rice through the land borders.
He stated that the ban on rice importation had brought about a significant rise in local rice production and unlocked economic opportunities for rice investors in the country.
Dr. Abubakar noted that the huge improvement in the rice sub-sector needed to be sustained for the country’s economic growth as signified by the huge contribution of the agricultural sector to the nation’s Gross Domestic Production (GDP) which was in line with the Federal Government’s diversification policy.
The minister noted that the resumed smuggling of foreign rice, especially through the land borders was constituting a serious threat to the previously recorded achievements.
He pointed out that there had been huge investments in rice production in the country and if smuggling was left unchecked, it would rubbish those investments.
Dr. Abubakar said:
“The Federal Government and private sectors have invested a lot of resources in rice production and processing over the years because of the government commitment to the development of the sub-sector through its various interventions.
“The Ministry has been supporting farmers especially smallholders and rice processors with quality seeds of improved varieties, production and processing machinery and equipment including the provision of modern rice mills of various capacities, per boiler, dryers, colour sorters in order to boost rice production and improve the quality and market competitiveness of domestic rice.
He added that if the smuggling was left unchecked, it would jeopardize all government efforts to enhance the domestic rice industry and make them ineffective.
‘’Nigerian rice industry had recorded significant progress in terms of investment due to an increase in the quality and quantity of the milled rice and it has in turn, increased the competitiveness, consumer preference and patronage of our milled rice”, the minister stated.
He emphasised that there was no better time than now to maintain the rice production momentum in order to achieve self-sufficiency for food and nutrition security ,job creation ,wealth generation and import substitution.
In his remarks, the Comptroller General, Nigeria Custom Service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), said that the meeting had presented an avenue for the committee to deliberate and discuss on curbing insecurity and smuggling of rice into the country.
He further said that ’’ the Nigerian Customs Service cannot fight alone in the Operation of the border patrol but needs other security agencies such as the Nigerian Civil Defense Corps to beef up the joint operations of the Taskforce’’.
Chairman, Presidential Committee on Trade Malpractice, Alhaji Dahiru Ado commended the ministry, the Nigerian Customs Service and other partners in their sustained efforts in tackling the menace of illegal rice importation through the land borders into the country.
He said his committee would continue to track vessels that bring in rice into the country through the Benin Republic and that the companies involved would be apprehended.
The following were part of the resolutions adopted at the meeting : that the Nigeria Customs should continue in its border patrol operations, Procurement of additional equipment to strengthen its operations and the deployment of Nigerian Civil Defence Personnel to compliment the larger border patrol coordinated by the Nigerian Customs Service.
Others include: that stiffer penalties be meted out to rice smugglers and that Nigerians should be encouraged to eat and patronize our local rice in order to discourage the smuggling of foreign rice into the country.
The meeting had in attendance Representative from the Ministry of Finance , Alhaji Mohammed Yakubu , who is also the Secretary of the Steering Committee, Representative of the Commandant – General, Nigerian Civil and Security Defense Corps, A. E. Obekwe, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Competition Consumer Protection Commission, Mr Babatunde Irukera.