Rice producers and dealers in the South East Zone are currently relishing the impact of the Federal Government’s border closure on the production of the rice in the state.
The respondents spoke on the sideline of a survey on the challenges of border closure by the Federal Government on rice.
The stakeholders said that the closure had motivated them to enhance their production capacities to meet local needs.
In Ebonyi, Mr Sunday Ituma, State Programme Coordinator (SPC) of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)-assisted Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) said that the responses gotten from its beneficiaries were encouraging.
“The development has made locally-produced rice to dominate the rice market in the country and it is hoped that farmers will meet the required local production for equilibrium between demand and supply.
“IFAD-VCDP will continue to encourage farmers with the provision of seedlings, agro-chemicals, adequate extension services, rural infrastructure among others to meet this demand,” he said.
An official of the Ebonyi Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said that the state government also encouraged farmers to continue dominating the rice production space.
“We want to allay fears of increase in the rice prices in the state being a major rice producer in Nigeria as the prices are still stable.
“It is only when rice production is inadequate that one talks about increase as consumers across the country still troop to Ebonyi to make purchases,” he said.
Mrs Sandra Osigwe, a rice dealer said that issue was not raising much furore in Ebonyi because the government had long banned the sale of foreign rice in the state.
“The level of local rice production is impressive and with the assistance received by farmers from the government and non-governmental organisations, the situation is normal.
“The adoption of the standard weight measurement by most rice dealers in the state has also reinforced the consumers’ belief and patronage of locally made rice in the state,” he said.
In Anambra, local rice dealers in Awka, Anambra also said they were recording quick sales in the past one month due to Federal Government ban on importation of foreign rice.
Miss Chika Umenzekwe, a sales representative at Cooperative Society shop located at Aroma, Awka said they had been making good sales in recent weeks.
“Before now, it used to take us more than two months to sell a truck load of rice, but suddenly we have been making appreciable sales in the last few weeks,” she said.
Umenzekwe said that price of 50kg bag of rice increased slightly from N13, 500 to N14, 500 in the last one month in the area.
Mr Emmanuel Egbomba, another rice dealer at Eke Awka market said customers were now going for local rice more than foreign due to hike in the price of foreign rice.
“A bag of 50kg bag of foreign rice now go for between N23, 500 and N25, 000, while 50kg bag of local rice goes for between N13, 000 and N15, 000.
“Because of the high rate of foreign rice, customers now prefer to buy local rice as against foreign rice,” he said.
Mr Jude Nwankwo, the Programme Manager, Anambra State Agriculture Development Programme said the state was doing well in rice production, especially since Gov. Willie Obiano took over.
“Our rice production projection for 2019 is 600, 000 metric tonnes and we are hopeful, we will meet because we have always surpassed the targets set in the past four years,” he said.
Nwankwo said the state introduced new irrigation technology in eight rice producing local government areas of the state.
He said the state planned to be net exporter of rice in the near future, adding that with the new technology, rice was now produced all year round in the state.
It is also a similar story as rice dealers in Enugu State say the closure of the country’s borders by the Federal Government has impacted positively on the agriculture sector, especially in rice production.
Mr Nicholas Ifeacho, a rice dealer said that the closure of the country’s borders had opened opportunities for stakeholders in the rice value chain.
Ifeacho said that there was an unprecedented rush for local rice which had jerked up the price per bag.
He said that a 20kg of rice which hitherto sold at N6,000 now sales at N7,000, while a 40kg of rice, which hitherto sold at N12,000 now sales at N14,000.
“We are happy with this policy of the Federal Government,” Ifeacho said.
Another rice dealer, Mrs Ijeoma Udekwe attributed to increase in price to panic buying by consumers.
Udekwe said that the dealers had by the increase in patronage began to make more profits.
She, however, said that rice production was faced with myriads of challenges which include lack of improved seedlings and destruction of rice fields by cattle.
She also mentioned the lack of herbicides to tackle tropical diseases that were ravaging rice fields in the state as another problem.
Udekwe said that land was also a major issue as the available land was not enough to serve rice farmers in some parts of the state.
But the Enugu State Government has however, urged the people to embrace rice farming, promising to make available farmland for cultivation to improve production.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Matthew Idu said that the border closure would boost local rice production, especially in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area (LGA) of the state.
“Since the state joined the FADAMA project, government has found out that about six of the 17 LGAs in the state have arable land for rice cultivation in large quantity.
“The state government is, therefore, calling on residents to engage in rice farming in those areas with arable land and consultants, who are into training on how to cultivate rice, are available,’’ he said.
He listed the LGAs with arable land for growing rice as Uzo-Uwani, Aninri, Awgu, Nsukka, Nkanu and Oji River.
According to him, the border closure is not new as many countries did the same to help their citizens produce what they needed, thereby engaging the masses positively.
“Nigerians may find it difficult at the beginning of the border closure, but it is to the benefit of the people.
“It will make Nigerians to go into farming and begin to produce their food by themselves rather than importing everything. The foreign rice that is being imported into the country sometimes can be expired.
“This is because nobody knows when it was produced and how long it has been kept before importing them into Nigeria.
“I believe that at the end, there will be much food produced by Nigerians and there will be lesser importation of food items into the country,’’ Idu said.
In Abia, Chief Dunlop Okoro, the former Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), described the closure of the country’s land border by the Federal Government against the importation of rice and other contraband goods as laudable and a welcome development.
Okoro said that the initiative had the prospect to bring about a chain of positive reaction in local food production, especially rice.
He opined that the country stood to benefit greatly from the measure and admonished Nigerians to embrace the closure and collaborate with the Federal Government to realise its lofty objective.
“Nigerians should desist from attacking the initiative and support the Federal Government by imbibing the habit of eating our indigenous food to boost local food production.
“On its part, Federal Government should pump more funds to the agricultural sector to enable the local rice farmers to increase their production capacity.”
Okoro commended the Federal Government for mustering the political will to take the bold step.
According to him, the closure would help Nigeria to attain sustainable food security and ultimately lead to job and wealth creation.
Major rice dealers in Owerri, the Imo capital have blamed the inflated prices of the commodity on closure of the nation’s borders by the Federal Government.
Mrs Ifeoma Nwanne, a major dealer at the Relief market, Owerri lamented the closure of Nigeria’s borders adding that was a major cause of the hike in price of rice.
She said that the border closure had come at a time when dealers had more patronage with the yuletide and other festivities by the corner.
“Christmas is almost here and customers have greater demand during this time of the year. Unfortunately, the prices of various bags of rice have skyrocketed and I think it’s because our borders were closed and importation is largely restricted,” she said.
Another dealer, Mr Harrison Chima also blamed the rise in price of rice on closure of the nation’s borders while expressing confidence that the prices would reduce with the yuletide in sight.
“We usually make sales in November and December. Since the borders are closed this time, prices have gone up. But hopefully, the prices will normalise in the heat of Christmas season when there will be more patronage,” he said.