The Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) has expressed dissatisfaction with the Nigeria Customs Service for not being up to the task in combating smuggling of rice into the country.

The group, through Mohammed Abubakar, its chairman, stated this while addressing the press over the weekend.

Abubakar added that rice smuggling has increased in recent months with 20 million bags smuggled into the country through various land borders.

He said: “Investors in Nigeria have made an enormous financial commitment in the rice sub-sector. Unfortunately, the only threat to the industry’s total development is smuggling.

“Over 1 million metric tons of rice (about 20,000,000 bags of 50kg rice) have been smuggled into Nigeria in the last three months.

“In the last 30 days, we have met with Nigeria Customs more than 10 times over the rising spate of smuggled rice through our borders.”

The Rice Processor Association Chairman urged the Nigerian government to draft the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) into combating smuggling as it is affecting the economy, adding that smuggling of rice into the country is affecting local production and if not combated early, could lead to a national food emergency.

Abubakar said: "More painfully, millions of small-holder farmers are stuck with their paddy fields, because the millers can no longer afford to buy from them.

“The Rice Processors Association wants to use this opportunity to tell everyone that if this menace is not tackled with appropriate dispatch, the magnitude of loss to Nigerian rice stakeholders starting with the

Federal Government, Integrated Rice Millers, funding banks, CBN, rice farmers, mill workers, rice consumers, etc. would be too devastating to cope with in an economy that is fledgeling.

“There is a need for urgent action to avert eventual national food emergency by combating smuggling, so that we can continue to grow our local rice industry and the economy.”

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