Rice farmers promise to crash price, record bumper harvest

Rice buyers should expect a crash in the commodity’s price to about N9,000 per 50kg bag in three weeks’ time as rice farmers record a bumper harvest, OKECHUKWU NNODIM reports

Farmers and millers of rice say they will soon flood the markets with the commodity and drastically cut the price following a bumper harvest.

This is coming after months of hike in rice prices occasioned by the closure of the nation’s land borders preventing foreign rice from coming through such channels.

Since the Federal Government closed the borders, some persons have reportedly been engaging in hoarding, buying and storing both rice paddy and milled rice.

Farmers, who confirmed that the hike in rice prices was largely caused by this act, told our correspondent on Saturday that they just recorded bumper harvests and this would warrant a crash in local rice price in about three months’ time.

In an interview with The PUNCH in Abuja on Saturday, the President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Aminu Goronyo, said, “We have a bumper harvest that we never had before. We have never had the type of bumper harvests that we recorded this year.”

He also said recent findings by RIFAN had revealed that some persons were planning to cause widespread artificial rice scarcity for selfish motives.

Goronyo stated that although there was an artificial scarcity of rice being felt in a few locations, a development that had led to price increase, it would not drag on for long.

Goronyo said, “There are enemies of this country who buy and store this commodity just because they want to create artificial scarcity. But let me tell you, our harvest is coming up in the next two to three weeks, and the paddy coming to the mills, our millers cannot even mill it.

“No matter who is trying to hoard or create artificial scarcity as seen in certain locations, such persons will be disappointed.”

He added, “Such persons cannot buy all the paddy rice coming into the mills and we have more than enough for Nigerians to consume.”

Findings showed that the price of local rice in Abuja had risen from about N14,000, which it sold for two months ago, to between N16,500 and N19,000, depending on the market.

Early this month, The PUNCH reported that in major markets in Lagos, the prices of some food items including rice had increased by 42 per cent to 100 per cent from August when the borders were closed to the last week of September.

The report stated that at the Ile Epo Market, Daleko, Mile 12, Isheri and Ogba, all in Lagos, a 50kg bag of imported rice that hitherto sold between N13,000 and N14,500 had shot up to between N24,000 and N30,000, while the local variants of 50kg bag had risen from N14,000 to N18,000.

But Goronyo said members of RIFAN had decided to stop selling paddy to individuals who were not millers, insisting that they were responsible for price increases.

He said, “We’ve noticed that there are people who move into the market to buy paddy rice and who are not even millers. We don’t know where they come from. They are enemies of this country because they just want to put Nigeria in a situation where we have artificially induced rice scarcity.

“We are now taking steps to address this by ensuring that no paddy rice buyer will come to the farmers directly and buy unless he identifies himself. There should be a broker who will verify the buyer to know whether he is a miller or not. So that is what we are trying to do now.”

When probed further to state the possible price for which the commodity might be sold in the coming weeks, Goronyo stated that the target of farmers and millers was to cut the price of a N50kg bag to N9,000.

“Our promise is that Nigerians will continue to get this commodity at an affordable price and it will be available. And like I said to you, we are still selling at N7,500 per bag of paddy and millers are officially selling at N14,000,” he said.

The RIFAN president added, “I don’t think the price will go up, rather the only thing we hope is that the price will continue to come down and definitely it will. Some of our millers sell at N12,000 and we hope that Nigerians will buy a 50kg milled rice at between N9,000 and N10,000.”

Goronyo stated that dealers in the rice value chain held a meeting with the Central Bank of Nigeria recently where key resolutions were reached.

“A meeting was held about two weeks ago involving farmers, millers and the CBN where it was agreed that there should be no increase in price,” he said.

Also, the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria confirmed the meeting and stated that the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, appealed to dealers not to hike rice price as a result of the closure of the land borders.

Emefiele told the rice dealers that the closure of the borders was meant to promote the growth of the Nigerian economy and ensure that the country attained food self-sufficiency in the rice value chain.

Participants at the meeting discussed how to further increase rice production and discourage hoarding and price increase, according to a document on resolutions of the meeting that was made available to our correspondent by RIMAN.

The Chairman, RIMAN, Peter Dama, said rice millers were in support of the closure of Nigeria’s borders and urged the government not to succumb to the pressure from some quarters for the reversal of the policy.

He also kicked against acts that had led to a hike in rice price and canvassed financial support for RIMAN members to build up capacity and expand their milling activities in order to stimulate further growth in the sector.

The RIFAN president also said resolutions reached at the meeting would help guide against unwarranted price increase, as he argued that it was mainly foreign rice that witnessed a hike in price.

Goronyo said, “We had the meeting just last week with the millers and sellers of rice across the country and they made us understand that the price from their end still remained the way it used to be.

“We did not increase the price of our paddy rice by one kobo. Also, they (millers) did not increase the price of milled rice by a kobo. It is only the foreign rice that you could say the price has increased. But Nigerians should not be carried away by the foreign rice that is less nutritious when compared with ours.”

When told that the local rice was being sold for between N16,500 and N19,000 depending on the market, as against a price range of N14,000 two months ago, the RIFAN president insisted that farmers had not changed their price.

“It is still N14,000 because like I said, we had a meeting just last week with the central bank. The price by our farmers is still N7,500 for a bag of 75kg, which when milled gives you 50kg of rice. The price of milled rice is still between N13,500 and N14,000 from our rice millers.”

(PUNCH)

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