I was just going through the Central bank of Nigeria list of items not eligible for forex exchange just to educate myself a little this evening as the saying goes that you start dying when you stop learning and was shocked to find out that rice top the list. Well, I know that we all love rice but like is an understatement here but for it to top the chart means a lot here. So this makes me dig further as to why and I was shocked by the amount of rice imported into the country or should I said the amount of money used to import it.
Nigeria imported 3million metric tonnes of rice in 2018 and our total budget for 2019 is expected to jump to 3.4million metric tonnes in 2019 which will make us the second-largest importer of rice after China. You may not easily grasp the implications of this data but let me break it down for you in terms of revenues flowing out of the country by showing you how much is spent by Nigeria annually on the importation of this commodity it can and is actually producing
Nigeria spends an average of N599 billion Naira on the importation of this particular commodity and a total of N7.92 trillion on the importation of food items, rice inclusive.
Now Nigeria produces rice, which I have been opportune to see and taste if you ask an average Nigeria about their local rice, the first name that will jump into their head is “OFADA RICE” with all the attendant stones and debris. Well, that is just one of the varieties of rice grown and milled in Nigeria. There are so many varieties and some that can easily pass for foreign rice because they are so neat and without stones.
So imagine this large amount of money we spent on importation of rice and some other commodities that the agricultural sector had been producing before and can still produce staying in the economy of Nigeria, won’t that be a big boost to the Nation in terms of development. Imagine how many roads N1 trillion naira can construct.
And am sorry to say that the first 5 or 6 items on the list excluding the second items are all agricultural products that Nigerians can produce. why am particular about rice is that it is a commodity that seems to generate a lot of controversies because it is the most commonly seized goods apart from frozen poultry products across the Nigerian border.
Of recent, customs officials have started entering into the local market to inspect shops and seize any foreign rice found in the shop.
The major problems facing the local rice producer is majorly the lack of modern machines and the power to process their products to the international standards like that of the foreign rice and when they do this on their own, the price of their product will be higher than that of their foreign counterpart who will have the advantage of a lower price on his side.
On a final note, Nigerians should also try to do away with their taste for foreign rice or foreign foods so that our local farmers can have the trillions we are spending on foreign farmers.