By Eileen Ihemadu
The Federal government has engaged various stakeholders in the country to crash the price of rice.
To this end, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, assured Nigerians that the federal government will not rest on its oars till the price of local rice becomes affordable to Nigerians.
Speaking in a meeting yesterday with rice farmers, Millers, Processors and distributors, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said this plan became necessary following the incessant increase of rice during the Christmas celebration.
“Every country in the world supports agriculture whether they call it subsidy or support; it is exactly the same thing. We are happy that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has agreed to bring down interest rates on Agriculture and manufacturing to nine percent to farmers.
“We have been discussing the modalities put in place to make sure that local rice sells much cheaper and that the prices can fall to the levels of foreign rice and below the levels of foreign rice.
“We applaud that decision but at the level of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and BOA, we have set up a fund which we intend to manage to support both the farmers, millers and marketers to bring down the price of rice because we are concerned about the cost of rice for the Nigerian family.
“We are going to meet in about two weeks and organise rice fair beginning in Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Port Harcourt and one or two other cities to showcase the achievements of Nigerian in rice production.
“There are those who do not believe that Nigerian rice exists but we know they do and we are very proud of the millers for their tenacity, investments and pains they have gone through in the last few years in trying to respond to a national call.
“We cannot say enough about Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), we are very proud of you because there are those who didn’t believe it could happen so we thank all of you.
Ogbeh further noted that in two weeks’ time, the Bank of Agriculture (BOA), and the millers would meet to see how rice milling would be supported in order to have low-cost rice during the Christmas season.
“In two weeks’ time when we meet, between the BOA and the millers, we will put in place a strategy to support rice milling so we can see what we can do for lower prices at Christmas. A letter will be sent by the director agribusiness and also talk with the CBN but be sure that we want you to succeed, to be rich, to make a success like other countries have done but one day, we want foreign rice to be a very rare commodity in this country”.
He added that; “I want to convey to you the appreciation of not only the President but also the Vice President, a nation does not thrive at an import bill of food of 22 billion dollars. We just can’t manage it and I want this message to reach those who keep thinking that importation is the answer, we don’t have the money, we want to create jobs so those of you investing in these sectors, we are very proud of you and we want to thank you very much.
We also acknowledge the fact that the floods have done a very terrible damage to rice fields, the water levels are so high, many rice farms have been flooded.
“We have taken into account the suggestions by farmers that we should look for varieties of rice that are flood tolerant, we will activate our contacts and research institutes to see what we can do quickly and we accept the commitments you have made as Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria that as soon as the rains go down, you will go into new cropping so that some of the residual water in land and irrigation facilities will give us another harvest of rice in about 90 days to 120 days so we can supply rice to the millers”