The Nigeria Customs Service and the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to stop rice smuggling through the land border into the country.
Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, President Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), disclosed this on Wednesday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
He said even though the importation of rice through the land borders was banned since April 2016 with an extension to the restriction of rice into the Nigerian market from the Export Processing Zones (EPZ), yet smugglers still engaged in the unwholesome act.
Goronyo warned Nigerians against the consumption of foreign rice, saying that most of the imported rice is stale and only meant for animal and fish feeds.
He said the result of the test by NAFDAC through some samples of some of the rice seizures had ascertained that smuggled rice through the land borders was unfit for human consumption.
“99 per cent of rice smuggled through the land borders are not fit for human consumption,” he said.
Goronyo said that the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd), reiterated recently at a joint meeting with RIFAN and Customs that rice importation remains banned through the land borders.
The RIFAN President said to ensure effective monitoring of the land borders, the Comptroller-General has approved a 12-man implementation committee to be headed by Assistant Comptroller-General, Alino Dangaladima.
He said Customs promised to continue to ensure the restriction of rice import through the land borders to boost local production.
He said that the Comptroller-General agreed that there was need for total ban on rice importation and effective monitoring of the land borders to stop the activities of the smugglers.
The RIFAN president added that the customs boss reinstated that any attempt to import rice through the land borders would be resisted, saying the position remains unchanged.
He said the customs told them that it had deployed more officers and men to borders to enforce the order.
According to him, customs had also re-organised its anti-smuggling patrols to provide additional capability, to enforce the ban of rice import through the land borders.
Goronyo said that the committee would be replicated at the state level to be headed by all state chairmen of RIFAN and its members would serve in the committee to be headed by the state comptroller of customs.
He said the enforcement has become imperative because the ongoing Rice Revolution undertaken by many state governments, and Strategic Interventions by the Federal Government Agencies was a step toward self sufficiency.
According to Goronyo, if adequate measure is not taken to stop the activities of the smugglers, it would have adverse effects on the bumper harvests expected from the rice revolution.
The RIFAN President commended the customs officials for taking the giant stride to reinstate the confidence of the RIFAN and assuring the farmers of adequate markets for their products.
He said that the rice that is coming into the country was very huge and not quantifiable, but because Nigeria has a big market one could not see the effect immediately, but gradually the local production would suffer for it.
Goronyo said that the annual rice production in Nigeria has increased from 5.5 million tonnes in 2015 to 5.8 million tonnes in 2017.
He said that in 2015, Nigerians spent not less than N1 billion daily on rice consumption, adding that while spending had drastically reduced, consumption had increased because of increased local production of the commodity.
“The consumption rate now is 7.9 million tonnes, while the production rate is 5.8 tonnes per annum,’’ he said.