Rice pyramids everywhere amid high price

Nigerians groan under rising price of rice, despite pyramids of the staple grain displayed in Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, writes ONYEKORMAKA ASABOR

In January, 2022, the Nigerian government brought together about 1.5 million bags of paddy rice worth over N30tn for display in the Federal Capital Territory. Government and its agencies claimed that the bags were filled with local rice.

The huge number of the bags raised doubts that they were actually filled with rice. Some questioned the source, as Nigerians still groan under insufficiency of the grain. The price of rice remained high despite the government’s claim to a surplus of the staple food after meeting domestic demand. Others wondered how a sensible government could expose rice in such harsh environment, instead of silos, as done in saner climes.

Since the move to limit the influx of foreign rice into Nigeria, which pushed the price of the commodity from N8,000 to about N30,000 per bag, farmers, particularly in the northern part of the country, had reportedly gone into rice farming. Also, most Nigerian families embraced the local rice, which they scoffed at.


Average price of local rice

The average price of 50kg bag of Nigerian rice in is N20,000 while the imported brands cost between N27,000 and N30,000. Against the foregoing, it is expedient to say that local rice brands in Nigeria and their prices go as follows:  Mamas Pride weighing 25kg sells from N13,000 to N15,000, Abadini weighing 25kg sells for N10,000, Big Bull weighing 50kg sells for N27,000, Tomato Aroso that weighs 50kg sells for N29,000 and Ofada that weighs 5kg goes for N6,700.

Others are Mamas Choice (10kg) N8,000, Sparkle (50kg) N30,000, Royal Stallion (25kg) N15,000, Anambra Rice (50kg) from N22,000 to N25,000, Lake Rice (50kg) N20,000, Mama Gold (50kg) from N23,000 to N28,000; Par Excellence long grain rice (43.3kg) N41,000 to N45,000.



Some of the rice brands are available only in certain markets in some regions of the country, and would require long travelling to such markets to get certain rice products.



Though the prices of the local rice brands might look cheap compared to the amount they were sold for in the recent past, analysis shows that the prices have not impressively gone down, given the amount of funds pumped into the project, which is an integral part of the country’s economic diversification.

It is alleged that the local rice brands are subsidised by governments for political purposes. 

Edmund Sobotie said, “The prices are competitive, as they appear to have been fixed to be marginally cheaper than foreign brands, thus making it look as if the government is doing much for the people.”

According to the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Fidelity Bank, Mrs Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, this has had a significant optimistic impact on the nation’s economy.

She said, “Through our interventions in the rice space, we have created a positive impact in rural communities by way of farmer empowerment and employment generation. This is also in alignment with the business sustainability imperative of our banking business.

“Only recently, the bank part-financed the construction of a 400 metric tonnes per day mega rice mill in Kano State owned by the Gerawa Group of Companies.”

Shedding light on the bank’s activities further down the value chain, Mrs Onyeali-Ikpe stated that the bank directly financed the construction and installation of several integrated rice mills across different geo-political zones in Nigeria. These rice mills have a combined milling capacity in excess of 500,000MT yearly.

At the Bankers’ Committee meeting of December 2019, for instance, Fidelity was awarded the second position in Sustainable Agriculture Transaction.

On the part of the Central Bank of Nigeria in its interventionist effort through the Anchor Borrowers Programme, which is an agricultural loan scheme launched in November 2015 by the Federal Government through the CBN, governor of the apex bank, Godwin Emefiele, said that rice yields had been boosted, even as large volumes of rice importation had being halted, thus addressing negative trade balance.

He lauded the courage and resilience of the smallholder farmers for achieving the “single largest rice pyramid ever assembled in Nigeria’s history.”

While stating this on Tuesday, January 19, 2022, during the unveiling of bags of rice paddy stacked in 13 pyramids that were said to be the biggest in the continent, with each of the pyramids containing about 115,000 bags, of 100kg each.

According to him, it is in line with the current administration’s promise to provide food security in the country.

Emefiele said, despite the challenges of the past few years, including insecurity, the farmers remained resilient, producing beyond just self-sufficiency.

According to him, the mega pyramids being launched represents aggregated paddy rice submitted as repayment of loans by the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria under the 2020 dry season and 2021 wet season, adding that the event also symbolised the efforts made by farmers to commit to loan repayment through produce submission and ultimately ensure the sustainability of the programme.

The ABP was first launched first in Kebbi State, to bring relief to farmers and impact the value chain of different crops in Nigeria.

According to the government, the programme has also improved the national output to 9.5 million metric tonnes in quality rice, making Nigeria the largest food producer in Africa and saving Nforeign exchange.


Benefits of surplus production elusive

Consumers are asking why they are not getting the benefit of the surplus production.

Ken Olisa said, “Despite having the surplus output, the prices of local rice are not that cheaper when compared with that of foreign brands, which are unarguably better-milled and of higher quality. He called for inquiry into the cause of the marginal differences in prices between local and foreign rice brands.

He added, “I think a dishonest quarter is manipulating the market. I hunch that due to lack of legal actions, a quarter of profit mongers had been creating instability in the local rice market.”

Similarly, Mrs Bisi Arokola, a petty trader, said, “The much-talked about local rice is not spread across markets. They are not commonly found like the foreign brands that can readily be purchased even by dashing across the street.”

As gathered, almost seven years after Nigeria launched what seemed at the beginning to be an aggressive push to achieve sufficiency in local rice production, the widely consumed staple has not only increased in cost but has become increasingly out of reach for the average consumer.

It is not exaggeration that the political will with which government has pursued its agenda on production of rice, often described as Nigeria’s ‘political crop’, since 2015 has not been seen in other commodities in recent times. The country was expected to boost productivity in general from the intervention promoted mostly through the ABP of the CBN, but the result, so far, has not justified the investment and sacrifice.

Despite the laudable figures trending since the rice pyramids were unveiled last month, Timothy Ogar, a civil servant, said, “In 2014, a 50kg bag of paddy rice could sell for at best N4,000. But in June 2020, the same rice sold for as much as N24,000. Despite that the escalated prices have gradually reduced over the years, they still remain higher than the ongoing administration met it.”

He lamented that a 50kg bag of milled rice, which sold around N10,000 in 2015 now sells from N24,000 to N27, 000 depending on the brand.

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