RIPAN blames customs, SON, NAFDAC over unbridled rice smuggling

RICE Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) at the weekend raised alarm over a renewed spate of smuggling in the country in recent times.

According to RIPAN, over a million metric tons of rice have been smuggled in the last three months.

Chairman of RIPAN, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Maifata made the startling revelation while briefing the media in Abuja on the latest development in rice smuggling in the country.

Maifata said: “Investors in Nigeria have made an enormous financial commitment in the Rice Sub-sector. Unfortunately, the only threat to the industry’s total development is Smuggling. Over 1 million metric tons of Rice which is equivalent to about 20 million bags of 50kg Rice have been smuggled into Nigeria in the last 3 months.

“Nigeria currently loses huge revenues, foreign exchange and Jobs to this menace as Nigeria Rice Processing companies are shutting down because of their inability to gain market access.

“More painfully millions of small-holder Farmers are stuck with their Paddy because the Millers can no longer afford to buy from them.”

He said investigations conducted by the Association in the last few months indicated that “all our international borders have been converted to smugglers route and our markets are filled with smuggled foreign rice.”

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He cautioned that “there is the need for urgent actions to avert eventual national food emergency by combating smuggling so that we can continue to grow our local Rice industry and the economy.”

While commending the efforts by the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) in its intervention in the rice sub-sector of the economy, he lamented that investors in the country despite their financial commitment are met with the threat to the industry’s growth due to the activities of smugglers.

Speaking further on CBN and federal government deliberate intervention in the sub-sector the RIPAN boss who is also the Chairman Umza International Farms Limited said “all the programmes have impacted greatly on our integrated processing capacity which has increased from 800,000 Metric tons in 2014 to 1.6 million metrics in 2018.

This is in addition to about 3.9 million metric tons of finished Rice milled by thousands of cottage millers scattered across the country.”

Among other things, RIPAN recommended immediate raid of the various rice smugglers market across the country while appealing to the Federal Government to begin to sanction officers and employees of Customs, NAFDAC, SON who are saddled with the responsibility of enforcement, and who compromise their offices or fail in their various responsibilities.

The RIPAN boss drew the attention of Government to the fact that some officers working in these Government Agencies are in collaboration with these smugglers and called on the authorities to fish them out and prosecute them for Economic Sabotage.

“Government must deal firmly with smuggling and severely punish infractions in a way that makes smuggling too costly to risk. Particularly, Government must begin the fish out and punish multinational Companies who play on both sides of the Border;  those who drive the syndicates (the Promoters),” he said.

Maifata also stated that “Government must as a matter of urgent national importance, take strong diplomatic action with our neighbouring countries who allow Parboiled Rice into their country for final destination to Nigeria.

The Government may consider closing the Borders for some time if diplomatic overtures fail.”