Foreign rice importers who are expecting their consignment from Thailand and other Asian countries will pay a total of N300 billion ($579.75million) to shipping lines as freight rates by the end of this year.

It was reliably gathered that in the first week of October, 2021, the shipping lines imposed $150 on a ton of parboil rice valued at $405 because of scarcity of containers.

The Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Operation Unit (FOU) Zone ‘A’ also said last Thursday that it has confiscated 13,342 bags of 50kg just within the last five weeks.

According to Thai Rice Exporters Association (TREA), of the total amount, Nigerian rice merchants, who have ordered for 2million tons of the grain would pay $300million; Benin, $81million for 540,000 tons; Togo, $56.25million for 375,000 tons and Ghana, $142.5million for 950,000 tons.

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Sources at the Federal Ministry of Finance said the shift away from container to bulk shipments have affected the cost of foreign rice importation to Nigeria and other West Africa countries from Thailand, Singapore, India and other Asian countries in the last quarter of this year.

As we are now in the month of December and preparing for the new year, a bag of foreign rice sells between N29,000 and N29,500 for the long grain and small grain variety in Nigerian market, while a bag of the local grain is sold between N22,000 and N25,000 and depending on the quality, the brand and the marketer.

Statistics by a global trade portal, Index Mundi revealed that the country imported 1.8million tons or 28 per cent of local consumption last year despite stringent measures by the government as local production of the milled rice dropped from 5.04million tons to 4.7million tons in the period.

The Thailand exporters have complained that container freight costs from Asian origins such as Thailand and India were almost twice the levels of break bulk ships loaded with rice arrived in West Africa amid clogged ports.

Thailand rice exporters have already cut the price of the grain from $507 to $405 in October, 2021 in order to enable them to supply their cargoes to West African buyers.

The development is coming as planned to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production by the Federal Government in 2022 is shaking as the country still depend on 1.8million tons of smuggled rice from the neighbouring country to meet local consumption despite the agreement entered into by Federal Government and the Republic of Benin in Abuja to end the smuggling of rice.

Government has been making substantial efforts for a decade to encourage rice cultivation in order to eliminate imports through subsidised loans, cheap fertiliser, free farmland and tax rebates, it was gathered however, that some farmers have refused to pay back their loans to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

It would be recalled that the Federal Government had made moves to attract N250 billion investments in rice production following plans to establish an additional 14 rice mills in the country.

However, efforts to boost domestic production have been curtailed by smuggling through the porous borders.

Findings revealed that between January and April, 2021, the FOU in Lagos seized 41,652 bags of 50 kilogrammes smuggled parboiled rice from Idiroko and  Ipokia in Ogun State and Lagos.

Also in Ogun State, 20,538 bags of rice were intercepted by the service between March and April, 2021.