Thai Rice Exporters Association Count Their loses; Loses Market To Olam And Other Major Nigerian Rice Producers; Smugglers In Ogun state Faces Hard Times

By Stephen Ubanna

 For years, when the Nigerian seaports and Land border areas were open for rice importation into the country, the Asian country of Thailand Rice Exporters Association, TREA, described as one of the largest rice exporters in the world by the World Trade Organisation, WTO, under the close watch of Ngozi Okonjo-Ieala, who incidentally was a former minister of Finance and Coordinator of the economy under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration were very happy.

Between January, 2012 and 2015, the Nigerian Government was said to have spent $2.41 billion on rice importation into the country. Until former President Muhammadu Buhari, on the recommendations of Godwin Emefiele , the thenn governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN,  banned extension of sale of foreign  of exchange  to companies and individuals  involved in rice importation into the country   to encourage local production and ensure that the country become  self-reliant in food production, Thai rice farmers were always smiling to the bank.

Olusegun Aganga, a one-time minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, under the Buhari’s Administration had said that the government spent N360 billion on rice imports before it took the bold initiative in 2015 to curtail the unbridled imports . 

But the Thai rice exporters appears to have known that it is no longer business as usual as Olam, NYX, Integrated Grain Processors limited,  Gurara Rice Mills,  Gbemo Rice Processing Company , Aangote, Royal Stallion Group,and other major rice importers in  Nigeria who had ventured into rice farming intensify effort to flood the Nigerian markets with paddy rice, that could compete favourably with the foreign parboiled rice.

It was not surprising why the TREA between which had enjoyed boom in the sale of par-boiled over the years were said to have witnessed 98.4% drop in the patronage of their produce by Nigerian importers between 2021 and now.

Going by reports from TREA, for January to July, 2022, alone, the Nigeria’s rice imports from the Association b which was said to have been shipped to the Autonomous port of Benin, Cotonou, Benin Republic and other ports in the West African sub- region and smuggled into Nigerian markets through several unapproved routes are no longer a lucrative business.

The TREA record  shows that  the Nigerian rice  importers now  spent less than  a million  Thai Baht which was not comparable  to the period of 2021,  when the Nigerian importers were said to have spent  close to 15 million Thai Baht  and a total of Thai 30 million  for the year. Financial analysts had attributed the decline in patronage of Thai Par-boiled rice to the implementation of the government recent economic policies by the relevant ministries and government agencies.     

Given that the major Nigerian rice importers had cued into the government policy to establish rice farms across the country may have informed why TREA has continued to witness low sales and resorted to dumping the country’s paddy rice produce in the Autonomous port of Benin, Cotonou, Lome Port in Togo   and Doula port in Central African country of Camerooun , including  Ebome Marine Terminal, Kiribi and Kole Terminals  ,also located  in the Central African country which are smuggled into the Nigerian markets  through the illegal routes between  the  neighbouring countries  African countries of Benin Reublic , Niger and  the Central African country of Cameroun.

Wale Adeniyi: CG, Customs

Indeed, the government decision to encourage local production of paddy rice may have informed why the Nigerian Custom s Service, NCS, under past and present, Management Team led by Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, MFR, and his Interventionist Units Area Controller and their anti-smuggling officers and Patrol teams have tightened up security at their various areas of jurisdictions to ensure that the Thai 50Kg bags of  rice are not smuggled  into the country.

Foreign rice smugglers who were said to  have  dared the Adeniyi’s officers on the road in Ogun, Oyo, Lagos,  Cross river, Akwa Ibom,  Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina , Buhari home state, Kebbi,  Borno and Yobe , would never  forget their experience in a hurry as they have continued to lose  billions naira worth of Thai and Asian country of India  paddy  rice  to the Nigerian government, escribed as a big blow to TREA, particular.

 This is  because  much of these rice shipment  from Thailand  to the Nigerian and Benin Republic importers through the Autonomous port of Benin, Contonou  are credit and payment  made after successful selling of the items, which mostly  ended up in the waiting  hands of Nigerian Customs  personnel  strategically  located on the road I different parts of the country.The Senate Committee on Agriculture had said that two million metric tons of foreign rice are smuggled into the country through the various porous borders annual

Compt. Shuaibu: Giving smugglers decisive blow in Ogun state

 The large quantities of paddy rice seizures that had been made by the Ogun 1, Command, under the close watch of Comptroller Shuaibu Ahmadou Bello, for much of 2023 and now, deposited at the Government Warehouses at Idiroko and Abeokuata, Capital of Ogun State speaks volume.

A visitor to Idiroko, Ihunbo,  Ilashe, Ilaro, Owode, Oke Odan  and  Ipokia border Communities in Ogun state  in the recent time  would applaud Compt.Shuaibu for inculcating the spirit of discipline and Team work in the mindset of the officers which may have  informed why they  are not giving a breather to the smugglers who have continued to be  on the losing side without any loss of life .

 Notwithstanding that there are over 94 unofficial routes used by smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities in the state , the Customs Comptroller, who who has been alive to his duties has ensured that all the smugglers routes in the state are adequately policed that the fear of Compt. Shuaibu has become ”the beginning of wisdom” in all the border Communities in the state.   Even the officers are watching their back to avoid playing into the hands of the Customs Comptroller who is believed to have his eye everywhere in the state to ensure that the right thing is done.

Many believe that the loss of the Nigerian and Benin Republic rice importers sponsored smugglers has become the gain of Olam, Royal Stallion Group, ONYX Rice Mill, Integrated Nigerian Rice Processors Nig. Ltd, Gurara Rice Mill, Gbemo Rice Processing Company , Dangote Rice Mill,   and other multi-national and local rice Mills that had swung into operation.

 Agricultural analysts believe that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Administration appears to be on the road to finally breaking the shackles of foreign rice importsand smuggling by taking advantage of the spiraling cost and government policy direction to advance the cause of self-sufficiency in food production in the country.

Given the seriousness of officials of the Federal ministry of Agriculture and the relevant Agricultural agencies to encourage local rice production of rice to meet the demand of Nigerians may have informed why the Nigerian Government had invested on a Rice Mill facility in Suleija, in Niger, home state of Ibrahim Bbabangida, a retired Army General and former Nigerian military President.

Senator Abubakar Kyari, minister of Agriculture, had said that the goal of establishing the multi-million naira mill was ‘’to enhance processing, improve Nigeria rice quality and nutrition as obtained in other major rice producing countries.   The minister was said to have  told those that cares to listen that the initiative to set up the Mill facility, would enhance   ‘’rice growth and processed in Nigeria.

The minister, who, according to insiders has been working according to the mandate of President Tinubu’s Agricultural plans had said that the completion of the multi naira Suleija rice mill, would process about 200 metric tons of paddy rice per day.

Mabeli Rice Mill in Niger state

Appealing to rice farmers to take advantage of the mill facility which has ‘’the intake section, par- boiling, milling and packaging areas to process to their produce’’, he noted that ‘’it is the only way Nigeria will be ranked to be in league of rice producing nations in the world  and stop importation  to save forex for the country.

President Tinubu, may have gladdened the hearts of Nigerians when he disclosed that the cultivation of 5000,000 hectares of farmlands across the country this 2024 to grow maize, rice, wheat, millet and other staple crops would crash the high cost in the market.

 The former Lagos state governor is optimistic that with the bold statement that had being made by his Administration over the last seven months in the nation’s Agricultural sector, Nigerians have no reason to worry any longer anger as’’ the bold Agricultural initiatives will stem the rising cost of living, high inflation rate’’ which the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, had put 28.9 percent as at December 2023.

Despite efforts being made by the Tinubu’s Administration to crash food prices in the country through its various Agricultural programmes, there are fears in both official and unofficial circles that cost of rice imports  for the 2024 Fiscal year  may outsrip  the N1.08 trillion  spent  under the Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP,  to boost  local food production in eight years of the Buhari’s  Administration.,

The  North American country of the United States  had projected  in its 2023  grain report  that Nigeria  will import 2.3 million metric tons  of par –boiled  rice in 2024, a 10% increase  from the 2.1  million metric tons  projected in 2023.  Going by the current exchange rate of over N900.00 to the US, dollar, in the import/window of the CBN,there are indications  that the country rice importers  will spend  $1.31 billion, equivalent of N1.2 trillion  to import foreign par-boiled rice into the country, which Agricultural experts had said  would exceed  the total  funding of APB administered by the Buhari’s Administration by over N100 billlion.

The rice imports, according to a source in the Federal ministry of Investment, Trade and Investment, may not be unconnected to the ‘’high insecurity in far mining areas , particular , in the northern part of the country, high input prices,  and inadequate mechanization  of local rice production  due to higher prices.

Recall that in October 2023, CBN, on the approval of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, had restored the 43 items , including foreign rice , prohibited by the immediate past Buhari’s Administration from accessing the  country’s official Foreign Exchange Market  after about eight years of being banned.    

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *