By Itohan Abara-Laserian
Ota (Ogun) – Some rice traders at Ota in Ogun on Friday attributed the current hike in the price of local rice to unregulated activities of middlemen distributing the commodity across the country.
The traders expressed the viewpoint in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) while reacting to the recent land border closure by the Federal Government.
According to the rice sellers, there is no scarcity of local rice but dealers who acted as middlemen between the sellers and the rice millers are the ones responsible for the high price of the commodity.
Alhaja Nurat Mustapha, a local rice sellerbat Oja Market in Ota, said she bought a 50 kg bag of the commodity at N22,000 and sold for between N23,000 and N24,000.
“We are even surprised that Nigeria has enough rice. We always get the rice when we need it, and people are really happy with what they are buying.
“I now eat local rice, and I must say it is very delicious, we just need some time to adjust to the new policy; but the dealers, who buy in bulk from the farmers in the North should be cautioned,” she said.
Another trader, Mr Ojo Adekunle, noted that some locally-produced rice that could match the quality of the imported brands.
According to him, those brands are selling faster because it has been properly de-stoned and well-polished.
“After the closure, it becomes difficult to get imported rice. So, all the rice I sell now are local products, but some of them actually look like the imported type, you will never know that it is a local brand until you cook it.
“I am particularly happy with the closure because a lot of the substandard rice coming in has stopped. We just have problems with the dealers bringing the commodity from the North.
“You might go to them to buy 20 bags of 50 kg at N20,000 each today, and tomorrow they will sell at N21,000; so, we need to regulate them,” he said.
Adekunle, also a dealer in Ofada rice, noted that business was booming, especially now that he could make profit of between N1,000 and N1,200 per 50 kg bag, whereas, he made only N200 before the closure of the borders.
Mr Paul Obike, another trader, said the border should remain closed because it was going to be a win-win situation for everybody.
“I would not want the border to be re-opened because this is just the initial stage, we will adapt accordingly as time goes on. People are buying the local rice and I am sure the price will soon normalise,” he said.
A customer at the market, Ms Bolanle Gbadebo, said the commodity was very expensive, adding that rice was Nigerian’s staple food and the most popular diet of the people.
“For now, we do not have a choice. I just bought a paint bucket measure of local rice at N1,800; but before the border closure, it was N1,200.
“Although I support that government leaves the border closed, so that our farmers will have a market to sell their produce. We cannot continue to depend on imported things,” she said.
Prices of the commodity were similar when NAN checked at the Iyana-Ota and Ojuoore markets, both in Sango-Ota, Ogun but with a slight difference of less than N100, depending on the quality.
A De Rica measure of rice, which sold at N200 before, now sells at N250, N300 and N350, depending on the quality.
Also, a paint bucket measure, which was sold for N1,200, now goes for between N1,700 and N1,800, while those traders who had the imported rice, sold at N2,000 for that measure.
Meanwhile the price of vegetable oil has also increased considerably at the markets.
A vegetable oil trader, Mrs Victoria Abike, said that a 20-litre of the commodity, which used to sell for N8,000, now attracts N13,500.
Abike said that a bottle of vegetable oil now costs N350 while the five-litre measure goes for N2,800.