The Federal Government has advised Nigerians against the consumption of imported rice.
Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, gave the advice on Tuesday in Oro, Ifelodun Local Government Area of Kwara State, while addressing journalists on the occasion of the Sallah celebration.
According to him, imported rice is originally meant as nourishment for cattle in the countries where it is produced.
He also noted that the Federal Government is doing everything within its power to boost the morale of local rice farmers.
He said: “People may say that imported rice is still cheaper. Oh yes, for three reasons: One, the ones being imported is rice that is no longer fit for human consumption. They are dumping it here. The rice is sub-standard. They even give the rice on credit for people to buy, because they know that the rice they are exporting should be given to cattle. That is why we have embarked on the campaign in the mass media that Nigerians should buy made-in-Nigeria rice.
“The government is making efforts to ensure that we subsidise our rice so that it will become cheaper. We are very confident that in the next couple of years, we would have achieved self-sufficiency in rice as in other products. It will take about the next one and a half years for Nigeria to be self-sufficient in rice. What we have today is a far cry from what we had before. In 2015, we were doing about three million metric tonnes of rice, but today, we are doing about five million metric tonnes of rice.”
Speaking further on why imported rice seems cheaper, he said: “It is not fit for consumption. It is being dumped. It is rice that has been kept in silos for years that is being unleashed on Nigerians, but because it is not coming through the proper channels, it is being smuggled.
“Many of the imported brands of rice will not pass the NAFDAC test; that is why we have continued to campaign that Nigerians should patronise Nigerian rice, because it is the only healthy rice. No Nigerian rice is older than one year.”
According to him, “You have rice coming from other countries that has been produced for five or six years, which normally they will feed to their cattle in their countries, which they are feeding us with today. But gradually, I can assure you that with the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, more support will be given to our farmers in the next couple of years. Not only that we are going to be self-sufficient in rice production, it will become cheaper.”
Highlighting the efforts of the government to support farmers, he noted that “When we came in, there were five million rice farmers. Today, we have in excess of 11 million rice farmers. Our rice import has been cut by over 80 per cent. These didn’t happen by accident. They were as a result of our Anchor Borrowers’ Programme. There are more millionaire farmers today than at any other time in the history of our nation. Today, Nigeria is closer to achieving self-sufficiency in rice than at any other time in the history of our country.”
He also restated the importance of grazing reserves, stating that they would go a long way in reducing the clashes between farmers and herders. He, however, added that the Federal Government would not force any state to implement grazing reserves.
He revealed that Nigeria’s foreign reserves, which was $23.7 billion when the present administration came into power, is now about N47 billion, just as he said inflation has reduced.