Okwe Obi, Abuja
The Federal Government has attributed the spate of rice smuggling into the country to the protocol of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), being abused by most countries, especially, Benin Republic.
Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri, stated this, at the weekend, when he received the Representatives of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Ms Ndine Gbossa.
He regretted that Benin Republic allows a country like Taiwan to dump parboiled rice in its country and later re-bag and smuggle them into Nigeria.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, George Oji, the mimister was quoted as saying ,“The challenge we have with our neighbours is that because of the extant ECOWAS protocol, people dump their rice products in their region and re-bag them and bring them into Nigeria.
“Based on that, those from Thailand would go to Benin Republic with their par-boiled rice and then re-bag them as though they were produced in Benin Republic and then smuggled them into Nigeria thereby denying the people of Benin the opportunity to grow rice and then benefit from the Nigerian market.
“But President Buhari has invited the President of Benin Republic to engage him to be able tackle the problem.”
Lokpobiri used the visit to commend IFAD for supporting the nation’s agricultural value chain development programme with the sum $500 million.
He assured Gbossa that the Federal Government takes the partnership with IFAD seriously because the fund has played critical role in making Nigeria the highest producer of rice and cassava in Africa.
“We take our partnership with IFAD very seriously and we appreciate the investments and the support that we are getting from you.
“Today, Nigeria is rated as the highest producer of rice and cassava in Africa, courtesy of IFAD intervention and the Anchor Borrowers Programme and Nigerians answering the clarion call of this administration to go back to the farms to produce what we eat and eat what we produce.”
Meanwhile, Ms Gbossa, disclosed that IFAD had approved additional $89 million for Nigeria in the value chain development programme totalling $228 million, for supporting rice and cassava production.
This, she stated, was in addition to another $60 million for supporting the Niger Delta youths known as the Alive for Niger Delta Fund.
“Altogether, we have investment in Nigeria that is worth half a billion dollars. Nigeria is one of the biggest investment countries for IFAD, so it is a very important country.”