Rice farmers fault Atiku, USDA on importation

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Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) has faulted and described as `fraud’, the publication quoted by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar that rice importation increased in 2018 when compared to previous years.

The Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), had quoted United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) World Market and Trade (USDA) report that the three million tonnes rice importation was 400,000 tonnes more than the quantity of rice imported in 2017.

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) World Market and Trade Report alleged that Nigeria imported three million tonnes of rice in 2018.

But Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, the National President of RIFAN, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Thursday that the publication was meant to create fake impression.

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Goronyo said that local rice production as at 2018 stood at nine million tonnes while the annual consumption capacity in the country was between 7.5 and 8.5 million tonnes.

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He appreciated the efforts of the Federal Government through the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to reduce rice smuggling, noting that it had yielded fruitful results.

“If there is anybody that will speak on the availability or in-availability of rice, it should be my association.

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“Those people making those publications are enemies of the efforts the government is making to feed its people with locally produced rice.

“We have never done well in rice in the past 20 to 30 years than what we produced this year.

“You know that there was a flood but had it been there was no flood, we cultivated more than 15 million tonnes but even with the flood, our farmers are happy, they are harvesting currently for those that were not affected.

“The minimum we are expecting after harvest is about nine million metric tonnes even with the flood and our consumption capacity is between 7.5 and 8.5 million metric tonnes per annum.

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“So you can see that even with the flood that affected our farmers, we still have more than enough rice to consume in Nigeria.

“We were used to taking our huge money outside and throw it to local farmers in other countries and create job opportunities, wealth and make other countries economic viable.

“The government is not only using the customs to enforce laws on rice importation and smuggling but also using primary producers which are farmers by providing all necessary input at a subsidised rate to make rice affordable and available in Nigeria,’’ he explained.

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The national president said that rice farmers would also begin the cultivation of rice for the dry season by the end of November.

He disclosed that farmers were also expecting a minimum of nine million tonnes from the dry season farming rice cultivation.

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Goronyo commended the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for providing inputs and mechanisation services to help farmers increase production.

On the high price of locally produced rice, he said that farmers and millers were making efforts to ensure price control of the product.

“The Ministry of Agriculture is providing inputs and mechanisation services to rice farmers.

“The price of rice from the millers is still between N13, 500 and N14, 500 per 50 kg bag.

“We produce and sell at affordable price, millers sell at affordable price but when it goes to the market, the price becomes exorbitant.

“That is why we are making efforts to see that we have control over this kind of price inflation. We should help our country to progress,’’ he said.

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