Farmers in Kano and Kebbi states have commended border closure, saying it is the best thing ever done by the Federal Government to farmers in the country.
Rice processing companies also hailed the decision, saying it had brought value to local rice in the country.
They spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews that government’s action had made positive impacts on the economy, especially the survival of rice mills hitherto struggling to survive due to smuggling.
Alhaji Faruk Rabi’u, the Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kano state chapter said farmers were now more confident in producing more rice.
“The border closure is a clear indication that the Federal Government is ready to boost agricultural production by insisting on the patronage of the home products.
“With this development, farmers will have more confidence that their products will be patronised. Therefore they can invest more on their farms because they know that after harvesting their farm products will be sold.
“If we continue to import foreign rice, despite the fact that the locally produced one is the best for our health, people will continue to buy it.
“Therefore, I am calling on the government to continue to give us all the necessary support as farmers.
“Most of our people go for foreign rice not minding its low quality and risks to their health. The one we produce is more qualitative than the foreign ones, “ Rabi’u said.
Rabiu added that the closure of the border would encourage farmers who have abandoned the business due to lack of market to return.
“It will also cut post-harvest losses, as there is a ready market in the country for the products,” the AFAN chairman said.
“Locally produced rice is now getting more patronage than before and it is available all over our markets.
“If the borders remain closed, our products will take over the smuggled foreign rice and that will go along way in boosting the nation’s economy.”
An industrialist, Alhaji Aminu Ahmed, also commended the Federal Government for its decision to close the nation’s borders to check to smuggle of foodstuffs and other goods into the country.
Ahmed, who is the Managing Director of Tiamin Rice Milling Plant in Kano, said the border closure would revitalise the nation’s industries and give entrepreneurs hopes of survival in the country.
“The border closure has received significant support from the Nigerian Rice Producers who said the policy is greatly making an impact on the homegrown rice,” he said.
According to him, many rice mills have started springing up, employing hundreds of persons since the closure of the borders.
He said his company was now producing 320 tonnes daily with over 300 permanent staff and 600 casual workers.
“The closure of land borders is working and if government sustains it, in the next few years, Nigeria will start exporting its own rice after feeding its citizens, that is where we are heading now,” he added.
Alhaji Muhammadu Jega, a large scale farmer, who holds the traditional title of Sarkin Noman Kabbi said it would be a great mistake to open the borders now.
“We should increase the production of rice until we reach a level that we don’t need to import as we have it in abundance even waiting to be exported.
“Nigerians should understand the difference between the imported rice and the ones we produce here in the country; between the fresh and preserved one.
“I believe we can produce rice that we can feed ourselves and even export to other countries.”
According to him, importing foreign rice discourages farmers as the patronage of local rice will reduce.
Jega advised the federal and state governments to purchase the excess of rice produced locally to save farmers from post-harvest losses.
The General Manager of one of Nigeria’s largest rice mill – Labana Rice Mill Limited – Alhaji Abdullahi Zuru said in spite of support to farmers and processors through the CBN by the Federal Government, the import of rice through borders had negatively affected the production of rice in the country.
“When the Federal Government is supporting and funding rice production and processing in Nigeria and the rice is being smuggled into the country on a daily basis with impunity, through our borders.
“We have more rice farmers, more rice mills in Nigeria and yet foreign rice was flooding our markets by the day.
“Before the closure of borders, from February to March this year, it was disclosed by the National Association of Rice Millers of Nigeria that more than 20 million bags of rice had been smuggled into the country from different borders.
“I want to state without fear of contradiction, an additional five million or more had been smuggled into this country afterwards.
“So this situation had led to the closure of some rice mills, suspension of production in some rice mills in Nigeria and was discouraging farmers to embark on dry season farming this year.
“Most of the rice mills, if you go to their warehouses then, they have produced so much such that they filled all the warehouses, they had nowhere to stockpile their products and as a result of that, they stopped production.
“But now, we are looking for paddy rice to buy as our warehouses have been almost empty as we produce and sell and buyers are coming more and more,” he said.
Zuru commended the Federal Government for the closure of the borders, adding “it is a good move in the right direction”.