Abuja – THE Federal Government has placed an embargo on further disbursement of the N10 billion Rice Intervention Fund domiciled with the Bank of Industry (BOI).
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, confirmed the development in an interview in Abuja on Sunday.
He said that the fund was not being put into proper use to meet the goals for which the Federal Government floated it.
NAN recalls that in 2008, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, approved the rice intervention fund to ensure food availability, following worsening global food crisis.
The government set up the fund, having realised that rice production was not a major problem in Nigeria but proper processing of the commodity to make it compete favourably in the international market.
The concept of the fund was for the Federal Government to give investors low-interest loans at four per cent interest rate.
Adesina said it was unfortunate that some of the companies that were supposed to utilise the money for the development of the rice sector were bringing in cheap brown rice from overseas countries.
He said the development had led to high importation of rice, diversion of the fund into other uses, frustration on the part of farmers producing rice locally, resulting to a lack of processing centres across the country.
The minister said that these activities negated the policy of government on rice production and the administration’s transformation agenda as it related to rice production.
Adesina stressed that in line with the government’s Agriculture Transformation Agenda, the government would re-advertise for the utilisation of the money, mainly for processors who were to build rice processing plants in Nigeria.
Investigations by NAN revealed that 10 major rice-processing companies, including Isiyaku Rabiu and Sons Ltd, OLAM Nig Ltd, Stine industry Nig Ltd and OFADA VTEE Nig Ltd, among others qualified for the utilisation of the N10 billion rice intervention fund. (NAN)