The Federal Government has threatened to shut some land borders if smuggling of rice continues from neighbouring countries.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, gave the warning, yesterday, when he spoke to newsmen, in Abuja, on some of the achievements of the Federal Government in the agriculture sector, in the last two years.
Ogbeh said the decision became necessary, to encourage local rice farmers.
“We believe they are determined to sabotage the efforts that we are making to guarantee self-sufficiency in rice and to save foreign exchange, which we don’t have. They insist on bringing in rice through the land borders, avoiding duties and the levies we put on them and, they are definitely bent on sabotaging our efforts and we are getting increasingly unhappy with them.
“And, I must say that very soon, if they persist, we will take nasty measures against them.
“We will like to advise our neighbours, who believe that the ECOWAS Treaty means that Nigeria is a volunteer-nation for economic suicide; we have no such plans, destroying our own economy to make any neighbour happy.
“The ECOWAS Treaty number two does not suggest that any country can be an avenue of smuggling foreign goods not produced in that country for dumping in his neighbour’s territory.
“If they insist, I do not think that government is far away from considering permanently closing certain borders very near us and when we do, nothing will make us change our minds on the issue, ECOWAS treaty or not,’’ Ogbeh warned.
The minister said importation of rice reduced from 580,000 tonnes in 2015 to 58,000 tonnes by 2016.
He also said by the end of this year, “we will eliminate the difference because more people are growing rice in the country.”
Ogbeh disclosed that the federal government will distribute no fewer than 200 rice mills to millers across the states of the Federation, to encourage fresh milling of locally-produced rice in order to make them more palatable than imported ones.
Ogbeh said the move will save about $5 million for the country daily, when achieved.
“We have never produced as much grains as we did in the last two years in this country’s history. We have fed not only Nigeria, we have fed West Africa and there are still thousands of tonnes in people’s warehouses.
“Those who bought grains and stored, believing starvation was near and they will make a killing, they are now begging us to take off the grains from them because they are getting stock.
“The only shortfall we have is maize because of the disease called the army worm. We are dealing with that and this planting season, we are going to support farmers to make sure that we bring that disease under control…”
The minister said government is working toward achieving self sufficiency in staples within the next two years, excluding wheat and added that government’s ambition is that, in five to six years from now, “Nigeria should be able to earn between N10 billion to N30 billion, from exportation of agricultural produce annually to service the country’s debts and build a robust foreign reserves.”