Nigerians would need to brace up for another round of hardship, with the soaring price of rice, considered as a staple food for households in the country.
Based on feelers from industry analysts, The Guardian reliably gathered that the price might escalate in few weeks to come and may last till December or beyond if urgent provisions are not made to address the challenges.
Currently, a 50kg of parboiled rice initially sold between N12, 000 and N12, 500 has risen to between N13, 000 and N14, 500, depending on the area, in the last two weeks.
This has not only resulted in panic buying and hoarding, it has also added to stress of already distraught Nigerians, as the price is gradually taking the commodity beyond their reach.
Attesting to this development was the release of several bags of the Lake Rice, penultimate week by the Lagos State government to designated retail outlets; high end markets, super markets, open markets and stores in large quantities across the state, to cushion the effect of the price hike.
According to the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Oluwatoyin Suarau, through a statement: “The attention of the state government has been drawn to the skyrocketing price of other rice brands in the market and as such it behooves government to ensure all year round availability of Lake rice to residents at affordable prices.”
Shaming the much-hyped success of the Federal Government in achieving a 90 per cent reduction in the importation of rice, NAIJAROKO learnt that importation of rice has not been reduced by 90 per cent because 80 per cent of food consumed locally is still imported, as smugglers have become warlords under the direct nose of government officials.
Based on the Federal Government’s claim, the current yield per hectare of rice has increased from 2.5million tons in 2005; 3.5 tons in 2010 to 5.5 tons in 2018.
Contrary to government’s claims, the country’s import bills keep increasing by the day, thereby reducing the foreign reserves.
The country is ranked the largest producer of rice in West Africa, at the same time she is ranked second largest importer of rice in the world as at 2017, incurring an average import bill of N1b daily on rice import.
According to the import data from a global trade portal, Index Mundi, the country imported 5.6 million tonnes of rice between 2017 and now, at the global price of $410, which amounts to $2.29m.
This is contrary to claims by the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) that Nigeria had saved $800 million from importation of rice.
Experts in the rice industry have attributed this to several factors: low productivity, which triggers scarcity in the market; ban on rice importation; unavailability of local rice as alternatives; and scarcity of paddy rice.
The Managing Director/CEO of Bama Farms, Prince Wale Oyekoya, told The Guardian that he is not surprised by the sudden sharp price rise, said the development was expected because of government’s insincerity about the state of the country’s economy.
“Our economy is struggling with low production of food, especially the carbonate section of Agric produce that the government is heavily promoting, such as rice and cassava.
The production is so low and it triggers scarcity in the market, and price increase. Banning of rice importation is another factor that shoots up the price because smugglers are having a field day with Nigeria Custom Service.
“The economics of scale is effective here where the product is very scarce and demand is high thereby forcing the price to go up.
The price will continue to increase, especially with Christmas approaching. We will continue to have price increase on staple foods until the central government can have people-oriented policy and not selfish policies that increase the amount of their bank accounts.”
Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Kebbi State Chapter, Muhammed Augie, who told The Guardian that scarcity of paddy rice has hit the market, said inability of rice processors to get paddy, is the major cause of the price increase.
“This is a lean period where supply from the market is declining, due to the fact that harvest season is still far away, prompting current price hike.”
The local rice that should have served, as alternatives are currently not much in circulation as expected, and the few ones in the market are expensive, more than the imported rice.
For instance, a 50kg bag of local rice in Kebbi State was N15, 000, compared to the imported type that was around N12, 500.
For those buying retail, a measure that was N300 is currently N350.
In the Southwest, a measure of Ofada rice, which contains about 12 Dericas, is currently N4, 000, as against N3, 100 price of the imported type.
The same goes for local rice from Asaba, Ebonyi and the likes, originally to crash the market.
Adekoya, who was Chairman, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI)’s agriculture sector, berated government for lack of capacity.
“Production will improve if the government introduces policy that will favour the masses and not the elites or cabals. The government has no business doing agriculture business, but instead it should provide enabling and conducive environment for farmers to do business.
“Our government is the problem of our economic woes where they want to be in charge of everything and in the process get confused and misappropriate our funds.
Importation has not been reduced by 90 per cent because 80 per cent of food we consume in the country are still been imported, where smugglers have become warlords under the direct nose of government officials.
“The only solution to avert more food crises is for the three tiers of government to do more in rolling out conducive environment for farmers to strive and survive thereby increasing production of our farm produces and provide adequate storage facilities, provide very low interest rate soft loans with adequate moratorium to pay and to use farmers asset debentures, instead of draconian demand of collateral from farmers to access loans,” he said.