By Chidinma Agu
Lagos, – The Elephant Group Plc., a leading agro-allied company, says it supports the planned closure of land borders by the Federal Government to stop smuggling of foreign rice into Nigeria.
The group’s Media Consultant, Mr Babatunde Ajibola, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Thursday.
Accordingly to him, the closure of land borders to stop smuggling will go a long way in helping the group to increase its rice production and processing.
“The smuggling of foreign rice is hindering the sales of locally produced one, which is why the production of local rice is low.
“And since it is smuggled, it is also cheaper than the locally produced rice, thus making the locally produced one a bit higher, which of course reduces its patronage.
“If rice smuggling is curbed and the local producers are able to sell their produce, farmers will surely go back to produce more.
“But, in a situation where the locally produced rice is not patronised, farmers and processors will not have the impetus to produce more,” he said.
Ajibola said closing land borders was the only solution to the problem of rice smuggling in the country.
He said there should also be a total ban on rice importation, adding that it would discourage smugglers from using local brand bags to ferry smuggled rice across the borders.
Ajibola said although local farmers might not be able to meet immediate national demand for rice; the closure would encourage them to meet it in the long run.
According to him, since smuggling of rice does not make the local rice competitive, it is a drawback to local production.
He said government efforts in making local rice abundant was being countered by continual smuggling of foreign rice.
“Do not forget that our neighbours do not produce rice.
“The rice is imported there for smuggling into Nigeria,” he said.
Ajibola said the price of locally produced rice in the market was between N13, 700 and N14, 000 per 50kg bag, while the smuggled one is sold for between N11, 000 and N12, 000.
He said the marginal drop in the price of smuggled rice is a delibrate effort by smugglers to attract patronage.