The Federal Government has faulted a report credited to the United States Department of Agriculture, World Markets and Trade where Nigeria was said to have imported three million metric tonnes of rice this year.
Specifically, the document had stated that the import figure was 400,000 metric tonnes higher than 2017 statistics.
The report, which was released in October, also claimed that local rice production was dipping, adding that since 2016, the country has consistently milled 3,780,000 metric tonnes yearly indicating a decline of 3,941,000 metric tonnes from 2015 output.
But the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, yesterday described the report as false.
He added that all relevant agencies contacted had equally dismissed the document as untrue.
According to him, 1.2 million metric tonnes of the product was imported in 2014, but declined to 644,000 in 2015 before dipping further to 25,000 in 2016.
The minister also disagreed that local rice production was on the downward trend, stating that capacity had risen to 4.9 million metric tonnes.
His words: “I want to say categorical that the story is false. Predictably, the Atiku Media Organisation this afternoon latched onto the story. We are not surprised.
“I (also) want to say that the story is fake and that Atiku Media Organisation also goofed.
“Immediately that story broke, I contacted the Central Bank of Nigeria and Comptroller General of Customs. I had meetings with the Rice Producers Association and also with the millers, and they all confirmed that the story is not true.”
He went on: “For starters, you can’t import rice without a Form M being approved. You can’t import rice without a Letter of Credit. So, we challenge the U.S. Department of Agriculture, World Markets and Trade to provide evidence that Form M was opened to bring in 400,000 metric tonnes and also that a Letter of Credit was opened for the transaction.”