The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has disclosed that rice imported into Nigeria from India and Thailand are often not healthy for human consumption as they are mostly expired products of over 15 years.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP in Abuja on Friday, December 6, Akinwumi said the nation was spending too much money importing rice from Thailand and India despite the fact that the nation had every kind of rice required for consumption.
He said, "For me, I want Nigerian millers milling more of our local rice into finished rice and for that to happen, we are determined that we are going to offer that paddy to them at a lower cost. So we provide a marketing subsidy for that paddy that will make it cheaper for them to mill Nigerian paddy and substitute for the rice coming from Indian and Thailand."
He said that Nigeria should be a net importer of rice, be it upland rice, lowland rice, fadama, mangrove rice in the Niger Delta or irrigated rice since the nation has all the arable land to do it. However, the minister reud that Nigeria is spending too much money importing rice from Thailand and India thereby making farmers in those countries very rich, making their rural economies grow while Nigeria manufactures poverty and the naira weakens.
"When a country spends a billion naira a day importing rice, does that not tell us we have a big problem?" he queried
" First is that Thailand spends 15 billion naira subsidizing their rice farmers, they buy rice paddy, from their farmers at 200% above the market price so their farmers have a stock pile of 18m metric tonnes of rice, we are the largest importers of rice, and yet what they want to do is pound that rice on our markets".
Speaking on why the federal government had to raise rice tariffs in 2012, he said "When we raised our tariffs it created a number of good things, first the industrial milling capacity expanded by 300% in two years, secondly, our rice production, our farmers finally got incentives to grow rice and last year dry season Mr President supported us to do one thing which we had never done a s country which is to have Federal Government National Policy for dry Season rice production"
Akinwumi said "people are used to growing rice in the wet season, and we said no we are better off growing rice in the dry season because the solar radiation is better and you will get twice the yield you would get in the main season in the dry season. So we went and registered 263,000 farmers, each one with one hectare each. They gave them high quality seeds and fertilizers all through the electronic wallet system and they produced 1.1million metric tonnes of paddy".