Federal Government has raised alarm over 1 million metric tons of parboiled rice waiting at Benin borders and targeting the Nigerian market for the yuletide season via smuggling.
This disclosure was made by the Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri on Thursday in Abuja during stakeholders interactive forum on curtailing activities of the smugglers and illegal importation in the country. The meeting is focused on addressing concerns of activities of smugglers on rice,poultry products and fish items.
He explained that the government has not banned the importation of rice,but clarified that those who are ready to import must pay the required duty, and ensure importation is done through Sea importation to facilitate quality assurance.
“As I speak to you now,we have a reliable information that 1 million tons of Parboiled rice are waiting at Benin Republic borders to be smuggled into Nigeria,and Benin Republic from our findings don’t eat parboiled rice;obviously the target is Nigerian market”Heineken said.
According to the Minister of state,”If we can reduce 30% of the activities of illegal importation of frozen chicken into the country, we would be creating over 1 million jobs in the poultry value chain. The Value chain is massive comprising of the maize feeds, soybean industry, and poultry feeds.”
“There are so many strange diseases affecting even little children,such that as little as the age of 5,some kids are down with kidney diseases. The reason is poor patronage of the local poultry industry,and importation of these illegal foods that we cannot even guarantee their quality control.
“We are aware through our intelligence unit that there are lots of importation through the land border through smuggling. I guess all of you are aware that these frozen products contains formalin which they use in preserving dead bodies .What these smugglers actually do is to damage the vital organs of most Nigerians through their illegal activities.
“We have done our own market survey,and discovered that there is no much price disparity between the imported rice and the locally produced rice.I don’t see the reason why these smugglers are always determined to bring in the smuggled rice,” he said.
In the last few weeks,it would be recalled the Vice President has held meeting with the Minister of foreign Affairs, Agriculture and the Minister of Interior, the Nigeria Customs Service, geared towards finding a lasting solution to issues bothering on smuggling of illegal food items into the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh had already held a similar meeting with the Comptroller General of Customs Hameed Ali, while they discussed on curtailing the activities of illegal smuggling as the yuletide season knocks at the door.
The stakeholders meeting had in attendance the representatives from All Farmers Association of Nigeria,Poultry Association of Nigeria, and Association of Indigenous Seafood stakeholders of Nigeria to fashion out ways of curtailing illegal smuggling.
Apart from the health implications of smuggling,industry watchers say there have also very difficult economic implications. Unemployment is one of the biggest problem we have,and once we tolerate this smuggling,we are exporting jobs and importing unemployment.