The Lagos State Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has reacted to the plans by the Federal Government to shut land borders to curb the challenge of increased rice smuggling.
Director General of the LCCI, Muda Yusuf, who was a guest on Channels Television Programme, Business Morning, on Tuesday said the Federal Government needs to be more strategic to successfully tackle the issue of smuggling foreign rice into the country.
“We have to be more strategic when dealing with economic issues. This is a very simplistic way of dealing with the challenge of smuggling. Smuggling is a symptom of a problem and when you begin to fight a symptom you cannot solve the problem. You need to identify the cause of the problem.
“There is a major issue with productivity in Nigeria’s agriculture sector. If we have a country of this kind of population and this kind of agriculture sector that has very serious productivity challenge, you are likely to have this kind of problem.”
He said although the Federal Government has taken steps to boost Agriculture and rice production, the demand, however, surpasses the supply.
Therefore, better solutions need to be proffered by the Federal Government.
“Although, there have been some efforts (by the Federal Government) to support the production of rice, we are still very far from what the demand is. There’s a demand gap of close to 2.5 to 3 million metric tonnes of rice locally,” he said.
Muda said rice smuggling cannot be eradicated in Nigeria by simply closing borders. According to him, the solution “is to see what you can do to scale up productivity so that it can narrow the demand-supply gap.”
He then urged the Federal Government to implement problem-solving policies and not merely block borders.
“Sometimes, you solve a problem not just by physically blocking the road and borders but through policies.
“If you are going to close the border entirely for a product that is just about 2% of the nation’s GDP. What happens to 98% of the GDP,” he said.
The Federal government had earlier intimated of plans of shutting down the land border between Nigeria and a neighbouring country to avoid smuggling of foreign rice into the country.
The Minister of agriculture and rural development, Audu Ogbeh, on Monday, said this was necessary to encourage local production and sustain the economy of the country.
Although Ogbeh did not state which neighbouring country exactly is affected, he noted that the rice imported into the country may look sophisticated, but it is acidic and poisonous, hence the need to shut the border and protect the health of Nigerians.
“Our other problem is smuggling. As we speak, a neighbour of ours is importing more rice than China is importing. They do not eat parboiled rice, they eat white rice, they use their ports to try and damage our economy.
“I am telling you now because in a few days, you will hear the border has been shut, we are going to shut it to protect you, us and protect our economy.
“There are three kinds of water in their natural state; there is fresh water from the river, salt water from the sea, blackish water.
“If you go to the Delta in many countries, in South East Asia where they grow the rice, if you plant rice in the same place like four to six years continuously, the quantum of arsenic begins to increase and arsenic causes cancer and that is what they are dumping for us.
“Some people say they prefer Thai rice because they are very sophisticated, welcome to poison,” Ogbeh said.