CHAIRMAN of the Presi- dential Task force on Rice and Wheat Production, Keb- bi Governor, Abubakar Ba- gudu, has said Nigerians are importing rice no longer safe for human consumption, ac- cording to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). Bagudu reportedly told newsmen in Birnin-Kebbi, yesterday, that imported rice usually contained preserva- tives, which are poisonous.
He disclosed that there were three major import- ers of rice into Nigeria, who specialise in importing very cheap, auctioned rice which found its way into the coun- try. The governor said Thai- land, in April 2017, auc- tioned 1.62 million tonnes of rice at about $140 per tonne, whereas the market price of it was $700 per tonne. “Countries, particularly Thailand, India, China and Vietnam, buy a lot of paddy from their farmers and store them, sometimes, as long as nine years. By so doing, they are supporting their farm- ers.“A country like Thailand, for example, may have eight million tonnes of rice in storage, so, occasionally, they will auction the ones that are almost going bad, that is, the one that is not fit for human consumption. “They sell the paddy as low as 20 per cent less than the international market price. Those who import rice into Nigeria will go and buy the paddy and clean them up.
“Because they do not buy rice at the international price, our local farmers, who are offering rice for $500 will not be competi- tive. If that importer is to buy fresh rice, he cannot bring it into Nigeria below $700 per tonne.
“This is the biggest ob- stacle to our rice efforts because consumers say lo- cal rice is expensive; it is not expensive, because we are not comparing it with equivalent rice elsewhere,” the chairman explained.
The governor said out of the 600 million tonnes of rice produced in the world, Nigeria produced about six million tonnes, which rep- resents one per cent of pro- duction. Bagudu said rice could grow in the 36 states of the Federation and called on stakeholders and citizens to come together to advance rice production. Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on June 7, 2017, established a National Rice and Wheat Task Force to set up targets that will yield comprehensible and self-evident results in rice and wheat production.
At the inauguration of the task force, Osinbajo said the Federal Government is try- ing to evolve a strategy for the economy, for employ- ment and for feeding the people. Other members of the task force are Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano and his Ebonyi counterpart, David Umahi. Others are Minister of State for Agriculture, Sena- tor Lokpobiri Heineken, President of Rice Farmers Association, Mr. Aminu Goronyo and President, Wheat Farmers Association, Alhaji Salim Muhammad.