The recent move by the Nigerian Government to ban the importation of rice has led to the collapse of seven rice mills and increased unemployment rate by 4 percent in Thailand, according to the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Audu Ogbeh.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh, said Thailand’s Ambassador to Nigeria expressed sadness over the new rice ban by the Buhari-led Administration.
In his words:
“Just like two weeks ago, the Ambassador of Thailand came to my office and said to me that we have really dealt with them. But I asked what did we do wrong and he said unemployment in Thailand was one of the lowest in the world, 1.2 percent, it has gone up to four percent because seven giant rice mills have shut down because Nigeria’s import has fallen by 95 per cent on rice alone.’’
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari during his new year message pledged that his administration will ban rice import in 2018. This has led a drastic reduction in the volume of rice importation from 644,131 MT to 23,192 MT, or so they believe.
But is there a Smokescreen?
While the Minister of Agriculture’s claim that Nigeria’s import dependence on Thailand has reduced drastically thus increasing their unemployment , Thailand’s rice exports actually rose to 11,628,303MT representing a 17.4% increase year on year.
Top on the chart of countries where Thailand rice exports went to was Benin Republic. The West African country topped the list of export destination with 1,811,164MT, a 26.9% increase in exports year on year. In fact, Thailand export of rice to Benin has more than doubled from the 805,765MT it recorded in 2015.
Nigeria in contrast has seen importation of rice from Thailand drop from 644,131 in 2015 and 58,260MT in 2016 to 23,192MT in 2017. The percentage drop between 2017 and 2016 is about 60% year on year.
Critics of the government suggest the increase in rice exports to Benin by over 1,000,000 MT is largely attributed to the rerouting of the destination of rice imports to Nigeria through Benin Republic, a smuggling haven for contraband goods into Nigeria.
The minister basically acknowledged this as he alerted the nation on what he described as alarming smuggling of rice along with the western borders of the country.
Why ban importation of rice
According to the government, the ban on the importation will assist the local rice farmers to produce more at affordable prices for local consumption as well as assist the government to conserve foreign exchange.
Recently, the Rice Farmers’Association of Nigeria RIFAN commended the Council of States for approving one billion dollars to boost agriculture in the country. The funds is being disbursed through the Anchor Borrower Scheme and Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme.
The government also pledged to support local farmers across the country with rice milling equipment like de-stoners and threshers, to help them reduce the cost of production and consequently bring down the local price of rice.
Critics have termed the move to ban rice import as been hasty, as the country needs at least three years before we can cease importing rice into the country. This also considering the fact that most Nigerians consider rice an important staple food.
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