The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Sabo Nanono, was quoted in a news report as saying Nigeria would hopefully begin to export rice to other countries in the next two years. According to him, the border closure by the Federal Government had resulted in increased output of local rice by farmers and millers across the country.
He also noted that the country now has 11 mega rice milling plants with the capacity to produce from 180 tonnes to 350 tonnes of rice per day. In a related development, the Lagos State government announced its Imota Rice Mill in Ikorodu, will be completed by the second quarter of 2020 with a production capacity of 32 tonnes per hour.
Since 2011, the government has been making substantial efforts to encourage the domestic cultivation of rice and to completely eliminate imports using incentives such as subsidised loans, cheap fertilizer, free farmland, and, tax rebates. The government’s efforts to boost domestic production have, however, been curtailed by smuggled imports, which were selling for between 25-40% lower than locally-produced rice.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2015 restricted importers of 40 physical items, which included rice, from accessing US$ from the interbank market and bureaux de change. In March 2016 the government, after previously lifting the ban on imports through land borders, imposed the ban again.
These restrictions led to a gradual decline in imports and resulted in an increase in the price of imported rice. Consequently, the price gap that made cheaper imported rice more attractive began to narrow. The most effective measure against rice imports however was the closure of the land borders in August 2019. Since Nigeria closed its land borders, the price of rice, a major staple in the country has been on the rise.
The price of a 50kg bag of imported rice, which was selling at N14,500 before the closure of the border, now sells for N27,000 while locally produced rice has also seen an increase in price of between 25-50%.
Despite hurting consumers currently, we are inclined to believe the closure of the borders may be positive for rice production in the medium to long term if production can be ramped up as quickly as being broadcasted and the quality of the locally milled rice improves.