Border closure: Mixed reactions greet closure in South-West

 
Fri Oct 25th, 2019 - Ekiti
 

Niger traders angry at Nigeria’s border closure. PHOTO: Screenshot/DW Documentary.

Farmers in the South-West have mixed opinions on the Federal Government’s border closure, while some commend the initiative others decried it, describing it as ill-timed and insensitive.

A prominent farmer in Ekiti and a legal icon, Chief Afe Babalola, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the closure, saying it would tackle smuggling in the country.

Babalola said that Nigeria was abundantly endowed with agriculture potential and other natural resources but the country was still grappling with food insufficiency and economic dislocation due to its over-reliance on imported products.

He said that there was need for a return to huge investment in agriculture to reposition the country and stop capital flight arising from passion for imported products.

According to him, there is the need for a paradigm shift from monolithic economy based on oil to engender sustainable economic growth and development.

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The Chairman of Ekiti state chapter of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Adebola Alagbada said the association would always support any government initiative or policy to empower farmers as long as such policies were not designed to create hardship for the teeming populace.

However, rice millers and dealers in Ido-Osi Local Government Area in Ekiti, condemned the Federal Government’s new policy to close the land borders.

They lamented that the sudden action of ‎the Federal Government to close the borders had caused an astronomical rise in the prices of rice both foreign and locally produced ones.

Rice dealers, Mr Godwin Owolabi said that before the closure of the borders, the price of bag of rice was between N15,000 and N16, 000, but it had shot up to between N24,000 and N30,000.

Owolabi appealed to the Federal Government to reconsider its decision on the closure of the land borders to make rice and other food items available for consumption and at affordable cost.

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The Chairman of Farmers Association in Ido-Osi Local Government Area, Mr ‎Oluropo Dada said ” I am surprised that the Federal Government decided to close land borders to stop the importation of rice and other items when it had not first provided needed funds or loans for farmers to farm.

“In Ido-Ekiti, we do not have good farm implements to cultivate food and cash crops, we ‎make use of labourers to help make heaps but with good tractors and funding, we will be ready to plant rice”, he said.

In Osun, Mr Ismaila Ayodele, a member of Osun Rice Farmers Association said the closure of the nation’s border by the Federal Government to prevent rice importation would encourage local production and bring more gains to the local rice farmers.

Ayodele said with ban on importation of foreign rice into the country, wealth and employment were being created in the three value chain of production, processing and marketing.

He said described it as a thing of joy for rice farmers and millers that within the shortest period that the land borders were closed, rice production and selling had received a boost.

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According to him, in no time, Nigerians will get used to consumption of local rice and the price of the rice would crash.

“The reason locally produced rice is more expensive than imported one is because of the failure to adopt mechanised farming. If locally produced rice is cultivated by mechanised methods, the cost of production will be lower.

“Research also reveals that 25 per cent to 30 per cent of farm yield is lost during harvest, meaning if we have the necessary equipment, a farmer that gets 70 bags of rice on his farm can easily get more than 100 bags on the same farm,” Ayodele said.

Dr Olabisi Awoniyi, Assistant Director of Commercial Agriculture and Training, Niger River Basin Authority told NAN that demand for locally produced rice in Nigeria was higher than its production.

Awoniyi said that this had created a deficit that was yet to be met.

“More people will now get into rice production and possibly the local farmer will be able to meet up with the demand.

“The border closure has boosted the demand for locally produced rice since there is no access to imported rice.

“Ordinarily at harvest, price of Paddy rice ranges from N4, 000 to N6, 000, but now a bag of Paddy rice cost about N13, 000, which is about a 100 per cent increase,” he said.

The official said that while the development had seen local farmers smiling to the bank as a result of huge profits, the reverse was the case for consumers.

According to him, government has to bring out measures to cushion the effect on the consumers.

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Also reacting to the border closure and its effect on food items, an Economist, Prof. AbdulGafar ljaya said the development would stimulate the economy and curb illegal importation of firearms.

Ijaya of the Department of Economics, University of Ilorin, said economic activities in all parts of the country had received a boost as most people now patronise made in Nigeria products since the closure of the land borders.

“Illegal importation of firearms through our borders is responsible for insecurity of lives and property being experienced in some parts of the country,” the don said.

Ijaya advised law enforcement agents and other agencies in-charge of monitoring activities at the borders to be alive to their responsibilities to achieve the intended purpose.

Mr Matthew Aileme, a farmer and rice miller in Ayede/Ogbese area of Akure North Local Government in Ondo State said many more people had taken

interest in rice production with the closure of the borders.

“I want Federal Government to help people that like to take rice farming as a business either in kind or in cash to enable them to take off because the demand for our local rice is now more than before. It is now a hot cake in town.

“I can tell you categorically that the closure has added value to rice production across the country, especially here in Ondo state because the rate of demand is higher than it used to be,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Ogun branch of the Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Mr Lawrence Osunkoya said demand for local rice had been on the increase following Nigeria’s closure of its land borders.

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“Before the closure of land borders, many don’t patronise us because they labelled our rice as ‘local’ or ‘substandard’.

“Now, even those with penchant for foreign rice have no option than to buy our rice because the foreign one is now either scarce or very costly in the market,’’ he said.

He explained that the development had resuscitated rice farming in Ogun as many farmers had returned to the farms while new ones have begun to show interest.

The chairman, however, raised concern that the farmers were just struggling to match supply with the increased demand because of low capacity for production.

He also decried activities of saboteurs who hoard the available commodity in order to sell at higher prices at Christmas.

Osunkoya noted that the artificial scarcity which had resulted from the situation had forced prices up.

He said that ordinarily, a bag of the Nigerian rice should not exceed N15, 000 per bag, but because of activities of some saboteurs, the price had risen as high as N30, 000 per bag.

An Ofada rice farmer, Mr Segun Akinwunmi confirmed that the border closure had resulted in increased demand for the Ofada rice in Ogun but the inability of the farmers to meet up with the demand had pushed the prices up.

“Before now, we normally sell a 50kg bag for between N25, 000 and N28, 000 but now we sell for about N35, 000.

“Though Ofada rice has always been more expensive when compared to the foreign rice, but that occurs during the dry season and not during the rainy season like this,” he said.

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In Ibadan, Mr Tunji Adepeju, an economist said the Federal Government’s action was a step in the right direction.

“Ordinarily, one would have said it is coming too late but this is good for our agriculture.

“We need to change our attitude towards local food so that we can create employment and generate revenue to develop our country.

“Nigerians should stop sabotaging government efforts to make life better for all,” he said.

The South -West Vice President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Mr Victor Korede, said rice production had been positively boosted with the border closure, while the market scope had expanded.

Korede urged the Federal Government to look into the price of paddy (unprocessed) rice which had increased tremendously.

“We bought a bag for N160, 000 after the closure of the border but before closure, we were buying at N120, 000 and N130, 000, that’s why the price of selling after adding production cost is high.

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“If it will cost them to subsidise the price at which we buy paddy, it will help us to sell at low price of N12, 000 per bag,” he said.

Also, the Managing Director of Gem Rice Ibadan, Mrs Bibiana Odekunle called for government’s adequate support to the farmers.

“We need government’s intervention on single digits interest rates to procure Rice Processing Machines of high standard that we can use to produce quality rice of international standard,” she said.

However, Mrs Olubisi Adegoke, a caterer, said that the border closure had affected her business “because we are unable to get quality rice to cook for our customers.’’

“The cost is killing our business; local rice with stones goes for N15,000 while local rice without stone is N21,000.

“We need urgent help to cope with the reality on ground,” she said.

Vanguard News Nigeria.

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source: Vanguard