The Federal Government has lamented the resumption of rice smuggling in the country through land borders, vowing to take decisive actions.
While giving a thumbs up on how the ban on rice importation had brought a significant rise in local rice production and unlocked several economic opportunities for rice investors within the country, Minister of agriculture and rural development, Dr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, said the development may be hampered if illegal importation persists.
The Minister disclosed this on Sunday in a statement through the senior information officer in the ministry, Obe Mbosire Mabel.
The statement, which was delivered at a meeting with members of the steering committee of the national task force on illegal importation of rice through land borders in Abuja, noted that the ministry is working with security agencies to reduce the smuggling of foreign rice through the land borders into Nigeria.
Frowning over the increasing rate of rice smuggling, Dr Abubakar said that a huge improvement in the rice sub-sector needs to be sustained as it had made a significant contribution to the country’s GDP in line with the federal government’s diversification policy.
He said: “The resumed smuggling of foreign rice, especially through the land borders is constituting a serious threat to these achievements, therefore, if the smuggling is left unchecked it will jeopardise all government efforts to enhance the domestic rice industry and make them ineffective.”
The minister noted that the Nigerian government and private sectors have invested fortunes in rice production and processing over the years because of the government’s commitment to the development of the sub-sector through various interventions.
Abubakar maintained that the nation’s rice industry has recorded significant progress in terms of investment due to an increase in the quality and quantity of milled rice and has, in turn, increased the competitiveness, consumer preference and patronage of locally milled rice.
The federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari had in December 2020, approved the reopening of Nigeria’s land borders.
However, despite the reopening of the borders, some other products remain banned as confirmed by the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
The borders approved for reopening by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) include Seme, Illela, Maigatari, and Mfun.
However, Ahmed had after a FEC meeting held at the nation’s capital disclosed that even though the President has approved the reopening of some land borders, items such as rice and poultry remain on the list of banned items.