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Stakeholders unite to combat rice smuggling

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Rising from a stakeholders meeting in Lagos recently, rice dealers said that smuggling of rice into Nigeria has brought untold hardship to all and sundry and declared that it would no longer be business as usual.
The stakeholders which included Rice Millers, Importers and Distributors’ Association of Nigeria (RIMIDAN), other rice distributors, importers and other relevant stakeholders, including security agencies therefore issued a communiqué. The communiqué formed their resolve to stop rice smuggling from neighbouring countries, particularly Republic of Benin into Nigeria. The meeting equally resolved to alert government agencies and functionaries such as the Nigeria Customs Service, special fraud unit of Nigeria Police, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), among others, on those dealing with smuggled rice so that the law would take its course.
The stakeholders also resolved to ensure that in the next few days, every issue about rice policy like high tariff, improved value chain, prosecuting the Federal Government’s agricultural agenda, especially in the areas of boosting food sufficiency and so on, would begin to take shape properly.
It would be recalled that rice dealers under the auspices of RIMIDAN had been crying hoarse over the non-implementation of the 2013 benchmark of $190 per metric ton duty on imported rice, which has resulted in the flooding of the Nigerian markets with smuggled rice from Republic of Benin.
Tunji Owoeye, president of RIMIDAN, while explaining the reason behind the stakeholders meeting, said the Federal Government had assured that it would soon resolve every contentious issue in the rice business in order to boost the economy and make those in the sector to survive.
“We want zero-tolerance on rice smuggling. The leadership of the distributors are ready to work with us, importers can now import legally, while millers and rice farmers should fully be back to business,” Owoeye said.
It is learnt that resolutions at the stakeholders meeting would be sent to the various bodies and relevant government agencies for action. The rice dealers agreed to continuously collaborate and work together towards sanitising the sector, which they said, has been taken over by unscrupulous people due to the inaction of the government on the agreed duty.
The rice dealers expressed joy that government had now started listening to them and had promised some incentives for millers as well as make the business competitive by encouraging local production of quality rice.
The meeting was attended by RIMIDAN officials, rice market leaders from Daleko, Isolo, G.Cappa, Oshodi, Iddo, all in Lagos, importers as well as representatives of enforcement agencies as well as the Customs which team was led by D.C. Chaza, deputy comptroller general in charge of enforcement.
Also speaking at the forum, the rice distributors – Esther Olufunmilayo, A.Y. Atilomo, Ifeoma Nwosu, Akin Ogunre of Elephant Group, representative of OLAM Farms, Ifeoma Okorie, among others, were all unanimous in their decision that increased rice smuggling could rubbish the government’s agricultural agenda and therefore should not be allowed to continue.
The sensitisation campaign against patronising smuggled rice would be carried out in other parts of the country, especially areas where the product is being sold cheap to the detriment of legal dealers, the stakeholders equally agreed.
Rice dealers provide employment for over 100,000 people including clearing agents, transporters and domestic staff. However, in the last one year, over 20 vessels have been trapped at high seas due to non-take off of the agreed tariff regime. The dealers lamented that while Benin Republic raked in over N200 billion duty on rice in 2013 alone, over 3 million tons of parboiled rice were smuggled into Nigeria through Benin Republic, amounting to over N300 billion revenue loss to Nigeria.
There is therefore the urgent need to tackle smuggling, which according to Owoeye, is the government’s mandate given to RIMIDAN and all those involved in the rice business.
Therefore, effective collaboration of all stakeholders would ensure increased value chain and realise the objectives of the dealers, it was agreed.

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