Rice Processors, Farmers Groan As Smuggled Foreign Rice Returns To Northern Markets

Different brands of foreign rice, especially from Thailand and India are flooding into some markets in Kano, Jigawa, and Katsina States in Northern Nigeria.

The worrisome development, according to agricultural experts and some local rice dealers, has greatly affected the local production of the staple food commodity.

This is just as persons who engage in the commercial cultivation of rice at Kano, Jigawa and Katsina States, are lamenting the effects of the continued smuggling of foreign rice, into the country through the porous borders.

Their views were contained in a special report by Economic Confidential titled, “How Illicit Rice Importation Threatens FG’s Agricultural Sector Interventions”.

The report was produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability Project (CMEDIA), funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

In a deliberate effort to boost the local production of rice and increase its market value, the federal government had in August 2019 directed the closure of land borders and equally banned the importation of foreign rice.

Thus, imports into Nigeria are to come through seaports, where customs duties can be imposed more easily than at land borders.

The move was aimed at checkmating the influx of foreign rice that is being smuggled into the country through the country’s porous land borders.

The period under review witnessed watershed activities around the agricultural sector, especially rice production. Because local production was boosted and the value in terms of accruing profits to the farmers jumped very high.

However, on December 16, 2020, the president ordered the reopening of four borders including Seme in Lagos, Illela in Sokoto, Maigatari in Jigawa, and Mfum in Cross River.

Also in April 2022, Buhari, through the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) approved the reopening of four more land borders.

The borders are Idiroko in Ogun, Jibiya in Katsina, Kamba in Kebbi and Ikom in Cross River.

A recent survey conducted by Economic Confidential shows that foreign rice still floods many Nigerian markets, a development that is undermining the demand and value of locally produced rice.

At Singer and Kura Rice Market in Kano and as well as Central Market in Katsina and Ultra Modern Market in Jigawa States, there is foreign rice in abundance, but only presented to intending buyers on demand.

In most of the shops at the markets, both foreign and local rice are being traded, however, only the latter are displayed visibly for potential customers to see.Some of the varieties of locally produced rice sighted included Umza, Al-hamsad rice, Gerawa rice, Labana Rice, Mighty Pure Rice, Tiamin, Fursa and Tomato King.

Their selling price at the markets ranges from N30,000 to N33,000, while the foreign ones like Thailand rice is sold between N34,000 to N37,000.

While expanding the scope of the investigation to the Southern part of Nigeria, it was found that the market price for illegally imported/smuggled rice is cheaper than the locally produced rice.

According to Chief Kingsley Muoneke, a processor and NMC Rice Distributors in Lagos, foreign rice is cheap because smugglers don’t pay levies or taxes to the government’s coffers.

However, Mr. Kingsley stated that the price varies according to the proximity of the markets to borders through which the foreign rice is being smuggled.

He said “When these rice reached the target warehouse, the cost is less as they are traded between N27,000-N28,000 and by the time they cross it from Alaba Rago, Sango Otta or Ijebu Ode , they add an extra charge of N1000-N1500 depending on the cost of transportation and security or police they would have to settle before reaching the market.”

Having followed all these processes of stopovers, he noted that the smuggled rice can be sold between N30,000-N31,500 in the market which is cheaper than the locally produced rice that is traded for about N33,000.

Mr. Kingsley also made a revelation of how locally produced rice in Nigeria is being cloned through repackaging and sold to consumers as foreign ones.

While advising the government on how to tackle the challenge, Mr. Kingsley said; “The only way to get out of this is for the Nigerian Customs Service(NCS) to step up and do their job diligently.”

By PRNigeria

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