Nigerian govt faults USDA’s report on ‘rising rice importation’

Nigerian govt faults USDA’s report on ‘rising rice importation’
November 06 21:21 2018

…By Ahmed Idris

The federal government said on Tuesday that the recent reports by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicating increase in rice importation into the country and decline in local production in 2018 was false.

Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this while reacting to the report, said local production has instead picked with possibility of attaining the target of producing six million metric tonnes of rice for local consumption in the next one year.

He said the volume of smuggled rice into the country could not be taken officially as importation of the commodity because they did not pass through recognised official transactions.

The minister said the Atiku Media Organisation goofed by referring to the reports in criticising President Muhammadu Buhari’s success in local rice production in the country.

He said: “I’m sure many of you read the report of United States Department of Agriculture World Markets and Trade Report that falsely claimed that Nigeria imported three million metric tonnes of rice in 2018, which is 400,000 metric tonnes more than the quantity of the product imported in 2017. And also that local production was on the decline and that these facts fly in the face of government’s claim of what it achieved in the area of rice production.

“I want to say categorical that that story is false. Predictably, the Atiku Media Organisation, this afternoon latched onto the story, we are not surprised. I want to say categorically that that story is fake and that Atiku Media Organisation also goofed.

“Immediately that story broke out, I contacted Central Bank of Nigeria and Comptroller General of Customs, I had meetings with the Rice Producers Association and also with the Millers and they all confirmed that the story is not true.

“For starters, you can’t import rice without a Form M being approved. You can’t import rice without Letter of Credit. So we challenge the US Department of Agriculture World Markets and Trade Report to provide evidence that Form M was opened to bring in 400,000 metric tonnes over and above that of last year and that Letter of Credit were open for these.

“Two, the records are very clear as to the importation of rice, you don’t have to take my words but go to Thailand Rice Miller and the figures are there. In 2014, 1.2 million metric tonnes of rice was exported to Nigeria, in 2015, 644 metric tonnes of rice was exported to Nigeria, by 2015 it went down to 5,000 metric tonnes. These are not my figures, these are figures from the Thailand Rice Association.

“And the claim that local rice production is on the decline is again absolutely false. Yesterday (Monday), when I spoke to the millers, all of them said, please just come to Kano, come to my factory you are going to see two kilometers length of trailers waiting to discharge paddy rice.

“So, I want to say categorically again without fear of contradiction that the Anchor Borrowers Rice Programme is working. Nigeria has been able to reduce by 90 percent the $1.65 billion it was paying on rice importation. The number of integrated rice processing Mills increased from 13 to 25. Those are the majors and that between the smaller ones and the big ones, today the capacity is 4.9 metric tonnes of rice. That is why we are confident that in a year plus we are going to meet the six million metric tonnes of rice production which is our local consumption. The facts are there and I challenge anybody to the contrary.”