By Nduka Chiejina (Assistant Editor)
Rice processors have cried out their N3.4 trillion investment in rice processing is under threat from smugglers.
To save this investment, rice processors are calling on the government to criminalise the sale of foreign rice.
Director-General of Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) Andy Ekwelem raised this alarm in Abuja over the weekend.
Addressing journalists on the development, Ekwelem lamented that smuggled foreign rice have flooded Nigerian markets again thus threatening the continued existence of rice mills in the country.
Ekwelem warned that most local rice mills are going to shut down, with attendant job losses as their investments are threatened by the activities of smugglers.
Rice mills, he said, employ over 13 million workers directly.
This number, he said, is comprised of 3.2 million cottage mills each employing at least five workers.
According to him: “At a time, the government tackled the menace of rice smuggling but immediately after the activities of #EndSARS movement and reopening of borders by the Federal Government, the markets have been flooded with foreign rice.
“We have said it many times on the need for government to criminalise sales of foreign rice in the markets and supermarkets. Rice is number one on the list of prohibited products in which the CBN placed forex restriction on.
READ ALSO: Niger concedes $1.8M KOICA rice mill to private investor
“It is assumed that any rice you see in this country now, in the markets, shops and even in your homes that is not Nigeria made rice, is smuggled into the country.
“The country is losing revenue because these smugglers are not paying the right duties to bring the rice into the country and this ugly development is killing our economy.”
He noted that since the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) intervention in local rice production, investments by integrated rice processors, down to cottage rice millers scattered all over the country, have topped over N3.4 trillion.
When confronted on the poor quality of local rice in the markets, Ekwelem said unscrupulous traders buy the commodity from cottage rice millers, illegally purchase bags from integrated millers re-bag the rice from cottage millers and pass them off as products from well- established rice processors.
Ekwelem said the association is committed to maintaining high-quality standard in rice production, stressing anyone in the rice processing business who fails to measure up in terms of quality would be shown the way out of the association.
Source: The Nation