NIGERIA – The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele on Tuesday said the Federal Government spent 2.41 billion dollars on rice importation between January 2012 and May 2015.

Emefiele made this known at a stakeholders’ meeting with officials of Paddy Rice Producing states and Rice Value chain investors in Abuja.

He said the bank’s decision to ban foreign exchange for importation of rice; fish and other items would not be reversed.

According to him, the apex bank has no plans to reverse the ban, adding that the reason for inclusion of rice in the exclusion list was not far-fetched.

He said, “Figures available with the CBN show that from the period January 2012 to May 2015, the country had spent over 2.41bn dollars on importation of this commodity.

“Unfortunately, this trend has resulted in huge unsold stock of paddy rice cultivated by our farmers and low operating capacities of many integrated rice mills in Nigeria.”

Emefiele said the CBN in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development would come up with a comprehensive financing model to support rice millers and other investors in the sector.

He said the bank’s decided to intervene in the sector through funding and other packages because the country would not achieve its true potentials if it imported everything it could produce locally.

He said, “ the bank will make funds more accessible to farmers through some of its funding programme such as the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme and the N220bn Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Development fund.

“The funds will be made available to rice farmers through the Microfinance Banks at an interest rate of nine per cent and any bank that charges interest above that rate should be reported to the CBN

“We appeal to the state governments to provide lands for the farmers on a large scale and we will work with them to clear some of these impediments.

“We are at a stage where we must feed ourselves and all hands are in deck to ensure this work.’’

The CBN boss said that those that defaulted in the payment of customs duty after bringing in excess quotas of rice into the country at concessionary rates would be penalised.

He said the CBN would take up the issue to the highest level in government to ensure that the money was paid.

“By exceeding their import quota, these importers have flooded the market with rice that is sold below what is produced locally thus, making consumer ignores the locally produced ones.

“We are going to enforce it and we will go to the highest level to enforce this to ensure that they pay and I appeal to them to go and pay,’’ he added.

The governor also assured rice producers that the bank would work closely with the Nigerian Customs Service to address the issue of smuggling.

Also speaking, Gov. Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi promised that everything would be done to support the CBN intervention.

Bagudu spoke on behalf of the ten major paddy rice producing states, Kebbi, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Sokoto, Ebonyi, Taraba, Zamfara, Nasarawa and Niger.

He said the states had enough capacity to produce rice that would help the country attain self-sufficiency as well as for export purpose.

He also assured producers that they would expand infrastructure, as well as provide the right atmosphere for people to invest in rice farming.

Mr Sonny Echow, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the ministry was making plans to intervene in rice production in the coming season.

“We are proposing to the CBN to help us set up a fund for rice millers for our rice farmers.

“We will be making that recommendation to the CBN to facilitate a long term fund,” he said.

Earlier, the millers stressed the need to address some of the bottlenecks affecting the increase in rice production in the country.

They also listed some areas where they needed intervention to include: Investment in research, irrigation facility and stable rice policy, as well as the need to tackle issue of smuggling.

Others included bigger fields, funding, access to land, establishment of more rice mills and increase in capacity of existing mills in the country among others. (NAN)

August 2, 2015;