The Senate Committee on Agriculture on Wednesday in Abuja has lamented on the incessant increase of smuggled rice into the country.

Disclosing this at the meeting with stakeholders on rice council bull promotion, vice Chairman of the committee, Muhammad Enagi stated that  two million metric tons of rice is currently being imported or smuggled into the country

The interactive meeting was organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Global Environment Facility (GEF), in collaboration with Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN), among others.

Mr Enagi stated that Nigeria’s rice rose from 3.7 million metric tons in 2017 to 5.0 metric tons in 2021.

He said; ”Inspite of this, 6.7 million metric tons of rice is consumed in Nigeria annually, resulting in a deficit of about two million metric tons which is either imported or smuggled illegally into the country”.

Mr Enagi stated that he sponsored a bill to establish the National Rice Development Council of Nigeria to provide guidance on the rice research, comprehensive development of the rice sector and the organiation of the rice stakeholders to enhance local production.

The Bill, he said, seeks to establish a rallying point and a comprehensive national operational and governance structure for a complete rice value chain.

According to him, “Nigeria should consider putting in place a National Rice Development Council and a comprehensive national rice development roadmap that will guide the country into self-sufficiency and export”.

He added that the establishment of the National Rice Development Council will transform the activities of rice farmers, processors, millers, researchers, marketers and other relevant stakeholders across the rice value chain.

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”With our natural competitive advantage in the area of rice production, Nigeria should put in place a National Rice Development Council and a comprehensive national rice development roadmap that will guide us not only into a regime of self-sufficiency in rice production, but also for export.

”The Nigerian rice industry exists in the abstract as there appears to be no form of coordination in the absence of a properly structured rallying point. We have Paddy Rice Dealers Association of Nigeria (PRIDAN), Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIMAN), among others.

Earlier, Executive Director of WOFAN, Salamatu Garba, expressed concern over the high rate of food importation into the country.

She said importation of agricultural produce, especially grains, “is still witnessed to a higher degree than imagined, leading to worsening food inflation and subsequently fueling hunger, poverty and insecurity”.

“Nigeria’s worsening food insecurity in the wake of climate change challenges, insecurity, low financing of the agriculture sector especially mechanization and poor situation of the country’s research institutions are threatening the economic stability of our nation,” she said.

She noted that the Nigerian Rice Council Advocacy would empower rice farmers to grow more rice in a sustainable way and increase paddy production to 30 million metric tons in five years.

In her remarks, the Project Manager, UNDP-GEF-IAP Resilient Food Security Project, Rhoda Dia, said the Nigerian rice revolution will enhance extension and research delivery services to ensure quality control in rice production.

Ms Dia added that the advocacy will reduce foreign exchange for rice imports. (NAN)

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