– FG says that the price of rice would start to fall from November this year as more Nigerians have returned to their various farms
– Minister of Agriculture Chief Audu Ogbeh says that the government could not be involved in the importation of rice as speculated in some quarters
– He says that his ministry would not encourage rice importation because it would be detrimental to local production
The federal government has said that the price of rice would start to fall from November this year.
According to the government, more Nigerians have returned to their various farms and by the next harvesting season in November, the price of rice would start to crash, The Punch reports.
However, the government said that the delay in the approval of the 2016 budget had made it impossible to implement the capital expenditure in the agricultural sector.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, the minister of Agriculture disclosed this while speaking to members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development at the headquarters of the ministry in Abuja on Monday, October 10.
Ogbeh, who stated that the government could not be involved in the importation of rice as speculated in some quarters, stressed that his ministry would not encourage rice importation because it would be detrimental to local production.
He noted that the federal government was against rice smuggling and noted that the Seme border had become a notorious route for the smuggling of contraband products into the country.
He said: “We will not encourage rice importation and there is no way our ministry or government can be involved in importing rice when we are working hard to be self-sufficient in local production. By November when the full-scale harvest starts, rice prices will fall.”
On why the ministry had yet to start implementing its capital budget, Ogbeh said: “It is about now that the capital expenditure is beginning. One of the reasons why money is not circulating is that we need to follow the due process on issues of procurement, advertisement and others.”
According to him, his ministry has spent just N882.58m, representing 4% of the N21bn budgeted for it in the 2016 Appropriation Act.
He also said: “You may be surprised to know that only six to seven states in Nigeria are showing enthusiasm in agriculture. Some by nature don’t seem interested, while others just can’t connect with whatever we are doing at the federal level.”
Ogbeh further stated that his ministry inherited N67bn debt when the present administration came on board, but added that N20bn had been paid to agro-dealers and distributed 900 million oil palm seedlings to farmers across the country.
On his part, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, the minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, said that the $22bn annual food import bill had led to the rise in the price of rice and other commodities.
He stressed that if Nigerians failed to produce some of the items being imported before December, the price of rice could skyrocket to N40,000 a bag.
Reports had emerged last week that the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), has removed the ban on importation of rice.
But hours later, the NCS released a statement informing Nigerians that it effect a total ban on the importation of rice into the country by 2017. The disclosure was made in Abuja just as the Service denied reports circulating posting in the online media that the Customs had lifted the ban on importation of rice into the country.
A bag of rice currently being sold around N20,000 at the moment.
Source : Naij.comNaij.com