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Insecurity: We lack paddy for rice production, millers tell FG

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Paddy rice

The Rice Millers Association of Nigeria (RIMAN) has declared that they lack enough paddy in Nigeria for the production of rice in commercial quantities, as they attributed this to the withdrawal of services at the farms by farmers due to insecurity.

Recall that on February 8, 2024, the Federal Government stated that RIMAN had committed to releasing about 60,000 metric tonnes of rice to the market.

But when contacted on Thursday and asked when members of RIMAN would start releasing the grain, the association’s president, Peter Dama, stated that though the government did not meet with his group, there was a lack of adequate paddy locally for rice production.

Paddy is rice that still has its hull surrounding the inner edible kernel. While most rice is prepared for consumption or further processing after the hull has been removed, a few rice products use paddy as the starting material and then remove the hull during processing.

When asked if millers had enough product to meet the 60,000-metric-tonne requirement that the government had mentioned, Dama responded in the negative.

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“No, no, no, we don’t have enough paddy in this country. Farmers lack enough paddy to sell. A lot of farmers have withdrawn services from their farms due to insecurity. This is an addition to the effects of subsidy removal on fuel.

“This did not only affect farmers but the entire production value chain for grain. And not only rice, but all other food stuff in this country. So I think everybody is experiencing this in one form or another. And you will agree with me that it is not only rice; the entire food sector is affected,” he stated.

Early this month, President Bola Tinubu directed the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to release about 42,000 MT of maize, millet, and other commodities from the national strategic reserves in order to address the rising cost of food in Nigeria.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, had disclosed this in Abuja after a meeting of the Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention.

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Idris had also stated that RIMAN had committed to releasing about 60,000 MT of rice to the markets.

“The first one is that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has been directed to release about 42,000 MT of maize, millet, garri, and other commodities in their strategic reserve so that these items will be made available to Nigerians; 42,000 MT immediately.

“The second one is that we have held meetings with RIMAN. We have asked those who are responsible for producing this rice to open up their stores.

“They’ve told us that they can guarantee about 60,000 metric tonnes of rice. They will make that available to Nigerians; to bring it out to the market to make food available,” the information minister told journalists.

But the RIMAN president stated that there was not enough paddy locally to produce rice, except if rice processors would import paddy, adding that such imports would depend on the availability of dollars.

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Dama also noted that the floating of the naira had made it tough for rice millers to import spare parts for some of their machines.

“We have spare parts that we have to import, which are not fabricated or produced here in the country, but the floating of the naira has made it tough to get those parts. You will also agree with me that the issue of power is another challenge.

“This has made some people resort to using diesel, but how much is a litre of diesel today? It is about N1,750 or N1,800/litre, and you will have to run your generator for eight hours or more. And when you run it on diesel, you know what it means.

“Now, you will add all those costs to your own production, and you don’t expect this person to go and sell at a loss. A lot of my members collected loans, and they have to pay them back. When you don’t pay it back when it is due, the interest rates will go up. These are the predicaments of my association,” Dama stated.

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Meanwhile, he noted that the government did not have any discussion with his association with respect to the provision of 60,000 MT of rice, but noted that the discussion could have been with rice processors.

He said, “I think when the minister made that statement, he must be referring to other rice millers because, with my own association, which is RIMAN, we’ve never had any discussion to that effect.

“So you may have to speak with bigger millers or processors; probably those are the ones.

He said, “I think when the minister made that statement, he must be referring to other millers because, with my own association, which is RIMAN, we’ve never had any discussion to that effect.

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“So you may have to speak with bigger millers or processors; probably those are the ones they had discussions with. I think the minister must have made a mistake by saying rice millers because nobody invited RIMAN; probably it is the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria.”

When contacted, the Director-General, Rice Processors Association of Nigeria, Andy Ekwelem, confirmed that the government had discussions with his members but said he would not give details on the phone.

“Yes, the government met with us, but I’m not going to speak with you about it over the phone,” he stated.

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