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Border closure pushes up rice prices

Since Nigeria closed its land borders, the price of rice, a major staple in the country has been on the rise.

The price of a 50kg bag of imported rice, which was selling at N14,500 before the closure of the border, now sells for N27,000. Locally produced rice has not been left out of the party as the price of Lake rice (a product of an alliance between Lagos State and Kebbi State) has increased 22% to N16,500 from N13,500 before the closure of the border, stated a report in Business Day.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for August 2019, Nigeria, with average local demand of 7.3 million metric tonnes (MT) per annum – versus average local production of 4.9 million MT, is the world’s third largest rice importer behind China and the Philippines. Since 2011, the government has made substantial efforts to encourage the domestic cultivation of rice and eliminate imports using incentives such as subsidised loans, cheap fertilizer, free farm lands, and tax rebates. The central bank has also initiated lending schemes such as the Anchors Borrowers Programme (ABP) and Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS) to stimulate the planting and cultivation of local crops.

Though production has improved and locally-grown rice is now available in many markets, supply still dwarfs local demand. The decision to close the land borders has worsened the supply situation, resulting in a steep increase in price as seen in the past few weeks. Adding to the pressure of low supply, many dealers are said to be hoarding the commodity with the intention of selling at increased prices during the Christmas festivities.

Whilst hurting consumers, the closure of the borders has been positive for local rice producers such as Olam and indigenous companies such as Flour mills who produce spaghetti. Our chat with a few consumers and retailers suggests that spaghetti is gradually becoming an acceptable substitute for rice as a pack of sphaghetti that can feed four average consumers sells for N220 while a derica (the local measurement) of imported rice that feeds about 5 average consumers now sells for N400.

Sunday Olatunji
Dele Fashomi, seasoned journalist and communication teacher, is a holder of Master of Arts degree in Communication and Language Arts from the University of Ibadan in 1992/93. Earlier, he had bagged a Bachelor degree from the same university in 1984, after which he proceeded to the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos, in 1990, for a postgraduate diploma in Journalism. He had done many courses in communication, including the EU-BBC Editing Course in 2002. Mr. Fashomi combines effectively the practice, research and teaching of communication. And to date, he has published two academic works in communication: Issues in Communication Technology and Policy (2010) and Economic and Social Issues in Advertising and PR (2013). He had his first break in the Nigerian media in Concord Newspapers in 1990 and today, he has over two and half decades experience earned in several newspapers. He has been part of many start-ups, such as The Republic (1987), The Comet (1999), The Anchor 2001 - 2002; Sun Newspapers (2003); Westerner newsmagazine (2005 - 2010) as Editor; National Life (2011) as Sunday Editor, and Newswatch Newspapers (2012- 2016) as Daily Editor. Dele Fashomi is now the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of newspaper online, which he started in July 2015. He is also into biography writing, with many books in his trail, some of which he wrote alone and one he co- authored with his mentor, Mr Dare Babarinsa, entitled:  Olabiyi Durojaiye - DARE TO BE DiFFERENT. He also guided and collaborated with Pa Olatunji Odusanya in writing his autobiography - AGAINST ALL ODDS. There are many other books in the works under his pen.