Home News Checking local rice adulteration

Checking local rice adulteration


During the pre-and post-independence years, agriculture was the mainstay of the nation’s economy. It is also a major contributor to the country’s foreign reserves.

The three defunct regions competed along areas of their comparative advantage in agriculture. The North was noted for its groundnut pyramid, and other legume produce; the East was famous for its palm oil production and other products while the West was renowned for its cocoa production among other agricultural products. The Cocoa House and the first television station in Africa in Ibadan were built from the wealth from cocoa.

Then, the Premiers of these regions, namely Ahmadu Bello (the Sadauna of Sokoto), Chief Michael Okpara and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, all late, ensured that the resources were well managed for the enhancement of the peoples’ well-being.

Most outstanding structures in these regions were established with proceeds from agriculture.

Things became awry from 1958 when crude oil was discovered in commercial quantity in Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State.

Excitedly referred to as “black gold”, Nigeria and Nigerians shifted their attention away from farming or agriculture to oil exploration as the earnings from oil exploration and export far outweigh those from agriculture. Even the then Head of State was said to have said in Addis Ababa Ethiopia during a meeting of African Heads of State and Governments that “Nigeria’s problem is not money but how to spend it.

The focus on crude oil as the mainstay of the nation’s later and the neglect of agriculture became the bane of the nation’s economy. Earlier, things were rosy with the oil boom. But with the dwindling of the nation’s economy as a result of global economic recession obstructed Nigeria’s match to economic greatness. There was a downturn in the country’s financial viability.

So, from the late 1970s, the country’s economic sustainability became suspect. The nation’s affairs became topsy-turvy.

As Nigeria is the most populous country in Black Africa, with a population that is growing at a rate that made experts to warn of imminent danger with regard to food insecurity. If Nigeria’s population is growing at a frightening rate, one it is expected that food production would be commensurate with the number of people in demand of food.

Nigeria’s population is estimated to hit 402 million by 2050. Fears are that the land and its people will be famished if government didn’t take proactive measures to ensure food security by investing more in agriculture so that more food would be produced for consumption.

With the staggering reality that the country will be in trouble in terms of meeting food demands with the present situation, the President Buhari-led administration has led much emphasis on diversification of the economy.

Specifically, President Buhari has, severally urged a return to agriculture. Fascinatingly, Nigerians have embraced farming, even though mostly at subsistence level.

With much emphasis laid on rice production for both local consumption and for export, big time farmers have either resumed production of rice in large quantity or have harkened to the President’s appeal to embrace farming.

Much as the local rice is produced in commercial quantity, smuggling of foreign rice into the country became an albatross. Nigerian’s still prefer consumption of foreign rice to locally produced ones as the foreign rice still find its way to the country through the smugglers route at Cotonou, and other border towns.

Disturbed by the unsavoury situation, the Federal Government decided to partially close some land borders. The action was taken in order to protect local producers. This worked, as smuggling of foreign rice became taxing, even though there are still a few cases of smuggling which economic watchers attribute to the impudent co-operation with the security agents manning the borders.

Much as the war against smuggling of foreign rice is yielding positive result and producers of local rice are happy and smiling to the bank, local rice producers have raised the alarm concerning the handiwork of some mischief-makers whose aim is to discredit the quality of the product.

Last week, the Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) raised the alarm over the contamination of local rice with stones by fraudulent characters in the sector.

Deputy National President of RIFAN, Mr. Segun Atho, said in Lagos on Tuesday, that “in a bid to discredit the quality of locally processed rice and fuel the smuggling of imported and expired rice, impostors are adding stones to local rice that they buy and then resell to the public.”

On the association’s efforts toward making locally produced rice stone-free, Atho said:”In terms of eradicating stones from our local rice, we are gradually getting there. “However, there are some dubious characters who buy Nigerian rice in bulk only to mix it with stones.

Atho insisted that most of RIFAN members are investing massively in rice production process and going by the sophisticated machines acquired by some of them, local rice should by now be competing favourably with foreign ones in terms of neatness.

“Currently, most local rice farmers have automated machines, de-stoners and rice polishers to make sure they eliminate stones in their rice production.”

Despite these salutary efforts, Atho lamented that some unscrupulous elements are bent on contaminating local rice; let them continue to play pranks, once our farmers are well equipped, these charlatans will fizzle out. Then everybody will realise the truth.

“It is totally wrong to buy local rice and add stones in them and give false impression about our local rice when we have de-stoners and polishers in the country. These charlatans should key into the system.”

He advised the mischief makers to tap into the programme to ensure that Nigeria attains self-sufficiency in rice production.

“My advice is that they should tap into this programme. They can offtake, and they can buy and sell the rice,” Atho said.

While condemning these fraudsters and their dubious acts, the farmer urged them to tap into the current development in the sector, even as he solicited more support from the government in rice cultivation.

“It is totally wrong to buy local rice and add stones in them and give false impression about our local rice when we have de-stoners and polishers in the country. These charlatans should key into the system.”

According to him, RIFAN caters for small-holder farmers who cultivate between one and five hectares of rice.

“We are glad with the latest pronouncement of the Minister of Agriculture that the government is going to make more tractors available for local farmers,” he said.

Atho called for government’s support in providing incentives, including machines, harvesters and other equipment needed for rice cultivation.

“We appeal to the government to help us to embrace mechanised farming. The government has been trying through its Anchor Borrowers Scheme (ABS) but we still want them to do more through mechanisation and production process automation,” Atho said.

He added that a lot of people want to go into farming but are inhibited by challenges such as the quest for white collar jobs.

The association’s boss urged people to embrace farming, even as he pleaded that equipment should be made available so that those interested in farming will have access them.

“If the tractors, harvesters, pickers and other machines are available, then there will be food sufficiency and security in the country,” he said.

The Nation

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