The Umbrella body of Nigerians Rice farmers, Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), has vehemently kicked against the directive of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, directing the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to return the impounded foreign rice seized by the agency back to the traders’ shops in Ibadan, Oyo State.

The farmer’s association argued that “Nigerian rice is affordable, and within the reach of the Nigerian people”. It claimed the senate decision is at variance with the resolve of both the federal government and Nigerians to grow local capacity in the rice sector in order to achieve food security.

Briefing media in Abuja, The DG of RIPAN, Mr. Andy Ekwelem, said, the senate directive was capable of sending shock waves that could collapse the rice industry, discourage further investments and put over 15 million jobs at risk.

The association argued that if smuggling was not tackled with appropriate dispatch, the magnitude of loss to Nigerian stakeholders particularly the federal government, integrated rice millers, funding banks, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and farmers, among others, would be devastating for the country’s fledgling economy.

“What we need is to grow our local capacity and not foreign rice,” he said.

“Take a second look at the matter from a national economics prism because from where we are currently with the Nigerian economy, personal biases must be eschewed if we must make progress”.

READ: Senate Orders Customs to Return Rice Seized from Markets

They further argued that the development had serious implications for growing the local industry partly because “when investors realise that their investments are not protected by adequate legislation, they will have no option but withdraw their funds from the economy”.

The farmers maintained that, “Over the past five years the current administration has invested almost everything it can, to encourage production and processing of rice all in the bid to conserve foreign exchange, strengthen our food security, provide jobs for Nigerians and grow our economy generally.

“A lot of people are encouraged by the forceful thrust of government. People are investing large scale farming, rice processing, paddy aggregation and agro-input dealerships.”

He said: “Jobs are being created, private sector participation is alive and active and new entrepreneurs are emerging in the sector. The entire rice processing and milling sub sector employs between 13 million to 15 million Nigerians and if we encourage smuggled rice to flourish in our market, these jobs and all the noble efforts of government will be lost within the shortest possible time.”

Ekwelem, specifically, pointed out that Nigeria is currently a leading rice producer in Africa and ranked among the top 14 countries in the world. He attributed the feat to the doggedness of the present administration to make sure that we “produce what we eat and eat what we produce”.