20 November 2012

Nigeria: Impending Food Crisis, a False Alarm, Rice Millers Insist

The Rice Processors Association of Nigeria has said that the shortage of 1.5 million metric tonnes of rice owing to flooding in various parts of the country would not lead to food crisis in the country.

The association also cautioned the Federal Government to resist pressures from the "cabal of economic saboteurs" to abandon and reverse its strategic plan and fiscal policy on the food in response to the disaster caused by the current flooding.

At a media briefing in Abuja, the Chairman of the association, Hon. Mohammed Abubakar said an inter-ministerial committee should be set up by the federal government to assess the level of damage done by the flood to the economy.

For rice, he called for the establishment of a minimum producer price for paddy harvested to enable farmers survive, adding that the federal government investment of over N200 billion in the sector would enable the nation become self sufficient within the shortest time possible.

He said, "From preliminary investigations in the flood affected areas, it is estimated that about 40 per cent of the rice crop may have been lost, particularly in the lowlands/swamp areas near the major rivers.

"This may create a supply shortage of about 1.5 million tons in the local availability of paddy, translating to milled rice shortfall of about 1 million tonnes. This should not create a major food crisis or food shortage to the level being touted by rice merchants and speculators, who are advocating massive rice imports.

"We acknowledge that the floods may have dealt a serious blow to yam and cassava, yet there is no need for panic and speculative hype calling for rice imports," Abubakar added.

The association's chairman said that even with the approaching Christmas celebration, there are adequate stocks of rice in the country to meet immediate demands.

"It is our view that there exist 600,000 tonnes in the country. With the rice harvest starting in November, additional stocks of up to half a million tonnes will be added to national food stocks.

Avoiding the orchestrated panic and doomsday projection, the federal government should carefully consider appropriate measured response that will not damage our national interest, particularly our current national initiative and investments in agriculture," he added.

Abubakar said that since Nigerian farmers constitute 70 per cent of workforce in the sector, any action that places them at a disadvantaged or impacts negatively on them should be carefully managed.

He said the association commended the new tariff regime which imposes 110 per cent tariff on both brown rice and milled rice, adding that the policy would eliminate abuse and manipulation of imported rice.

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