Rice farmers under the umbrella of the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), yesterday kicked against the directive by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to return the smuggled goods it impounded from rice traders’ shops in Ibadan, Oyo State.
The group stated that the resolution of the committee was at variance with the resolve of both the federal government and Nigerians to grow local capacity in the rice sector in order to achieve food security.
The association also argued that the “Nigerian rice is affordable, and within the reach of the Nigerian people”.
The Director General of RIPAN, Mr. Andy Ekwelem, at a media briefing in Abuja, said, the senate directive was capable of sending shock waves that could collapse the rice industry, discourage further investments and put over 15 million jobs at risk as well as erode the gains so far achieved in the country’s rice revolution.
The association, therefore, argued that if smuggling was not tackled with appropriate dispatch, the magnitude of loss to Nigerian stakeholders particularly the federal government, integrated rice millers, funding banks, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and farmers, among others, would be devastating for the country’s fledgling economy.
Ekwelem, pointed out that there was the need for urgent action to avert a looming national food emergency, adding that all hands must be on deck to combat smuggling.“What we need is to grow our local capacity and not foreign rice,” he said. (ThisDay)