Rice, oh almighty rice! Displaced cassava flakes (garri) to become Nigeria’s number one staple food and now the most reported food item in the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari, from the takeoff of his administration had pledged his commitment to the agricultural sector as he alluded to the incapacity of crude oil to continue to sustain the nation. He decried the importation of basic food staples and promised that local production will increase in his administration.
In the past year, there has been so much ado about rice, its production, importation, smuggling, prices and even consumption. Here’s a brief timeline of how rice has fared and we’re not liking the look of it:
August 27, 2016: Billionaire entrepreneur, Alhaji Aliko Dangote had promised to partner with the federal government in reducing importation of food items into the country to the barest minimum. A subsidiary of his company, Dangote Rice Limited was to start local rice production and its aim was to make importation unattractive and in turn, elicit a significant crash in prices.
September 11, 2016: We were told to “brace up” for what was to come. Rice was going to be sold for twice the price in December. The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri said to newsmen that Nigeria was spending up to $22 billion on importing food items including rice. He also urged the people of Niger Delta to consider farming, and put less priority on oil.
September 16, 2016: It was revealed by the Minister for Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh that Nigeria spends an outrageous N2.4 billion on rice importation DAILY. He also assured farmers of the intervention measures the FG has put in place to support all-year farming.
On this day also, the Minister insulted Nigerians’s appetite for rice by accusing us consuming too much of it, then he suggested we shift to potatoes.
October 9, 2016: The Nigerian Customs Service reiterated its position on the ban on rice importation. This move was to diffuse rumours of a reversal of the ban that pervaded the country the previous day. According to the Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Mr. Segun Adeniyi, rice is still NOT allowed through Nigeria’s land borders.
October 11, 2016: The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh promised Nigerians that the price of rice will begin to drop by November which according to him is when full-scale harvest starts.
October 12, 2016: Men of the Nigerian Customs combed through various markets in Lagos searching for smuggled rice.
October 14, 2016: The Nigerian Customs Service seized N1.3 billion worth of smuggled rice and other items in various strategic operations carried out across the country. Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs, Musa Jalo revealed that rice is the most smuggled consumer item across the country.
This is the most recent we’ve heard of Nigeria’s confusion about rice. We foresee subsequent weeks full of rice-inspired pandemonium, especially in November, if prices do not crash as the Minister Audu Ogbeh promised. We’ll be here to keep you to up to speed.