The Rice Processors Association of Nigeria on Thursday backed the Federal Government’s closure of the land border with Benin Republic and other neighbouring countries.
It said the move was needed to address the rising case of rice smuggling into Nigeria from neighbouring countries, adding that the country would have lost $400m on smuggling of foreign rice through the land borders.
RIPAN described the closure as long overdue, noting that it was in the best interest of the economy.
The association said that the action of the government had suddenly returned life to the rice value chain as the hitherto subdued mills had resumed operations within one week of the border closure.
The President, RIPAN, Mohammed Maifata, said these during an interview with journalists in Abuja.
He commended the Federal Government for taking the decision to carry out surveillance on the nation’s borders, stating that Nigeria risked losing over $400m to rice smuggling if over one million metric tonnes of the commodity were allowed to enter the country from Benin Republic.
Maifata said the association arrived at the figure after an intensive border and port survey.
He said the closure of the Nigerian-Benin Republic border would help curb the menace of rice smuggling and boost productivity of operators in the sector.
From January to date, he said, over one million metric tonnes of rice were brought into Benin mostly from Thailand and India.
He said, “We came to let the whole world know that we support this action and we are with the government in this journey.
“We will support them with all what we can, in terms of information and statistics – whatever they need from us – we are ready to do it.
“We want the whole nation to support the government in this fight: it is for the benefit of Nigeria. I want you to know that the insinuation that we cannot feed ourselves with rice is not true.
“We as an association met yesterday and tasked ourselves to produce massively so that we can fill the gap voided by the smuggling activities. And we are up to the task and are determined to do it.”
He added, “By this action of government, it has opened up many things within this week of closure of the border.
“All the mills are now open producing at almost 100 per cent capacity. Procurement of paddy has resumed by the millers and farmers are happy because they are expecting new harvests in November.”
The RIPAN boss also said based on findings by the association, about half a million metric tonnes of rice had already been ordered from Thailand for onward movement to Nigeria.
This, according to him, was being done by rice smugglers in preparation to the Christmas season.
Mafaita said if the product was smuggled into the country, it would have negative impact on rice processors as well as lead to loss of jobs.
He said, “Already, an order for half a million tonnes was placed by smugglers in anticipation of the Christmas period. They hoped to bring it in November. These are things we already know; a lot others come in containers.
“The implication is that everything that comes to Benin comes to Nigeria because no other country in the West Coast eats parboiled rice; it’s only Nigeria.”
He also said the association had further resolved not to take undue advantage of the situation to hike the price of the commodity going forward.
In terms of pricing and supply, he said the association had agreed to sell the product for between N13, 300 and N14, 000.