By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
An agribusiness firm, Izegbuwa Farms Limited, Monday, hailed the move by Nigeria and Benin Republic to establish rice farms in order to boost production and also stem the smuggling of the commodity.
The commendation was made by the Chief Executive Officer, Izegbuwa Farms Limited, Chief Patrick Eholor, while speaking on the need for both countries to actualize the plan of having rice farms.
Eholor also expressed optimism that the move which is welcomed should help address the worrisome issue of smuggling of the commodity in all ramifications that have been a major challenge in Nigeria’s rice industry.
According to him if both countries should carry various border communities along in the proposed rice farm project along its value chain, and the issue of smuggling will be a thing of the past.
He also added that the customs and immigration services of both countries should also be involved in the plan, because they are in charge of both countries’ borders, and the youths should be employed to spearhead the cultivation, processing, and sale of the commodity.
However, he also mentioned that border routes frequently used for smuggling activities, especially for rice include Babura, Kongolon, Ibadan, Seme, Owede, Benin, and many other illegal routes into the country, which should be addressed.
He said: “The issue of rice smuggling has always been a nightmare to local rice farmers in Nigeria and other West African countries.
“It is assumed that millions of tonnes of smuggled rice is being offloaded at the Benin-Nigeria borders on daily basis without any interruption, or checks by customs and the security agencies for onward transportation into Nigeria markets, for example, Kano, Abuja, Kaduna, Jos, Lagos and several cities in the country.
“At the moment at various markets in the country smuggled rice is openly displayed in shops without any fear of sanctioning.
“I must commend the government of Nigeria and its Benin Republic counterpart for urgently trying to stem the tide of this illicit business by partnering with each other to end the ugly act of rice smuggling by establishing rice farms.”
He also expressed optimism that, “This will safeguard investment in rice and protect rice millers, processors and farmers in this country and as well as help the local economies of the Benin Republic and Nigeria grow.
“Thereby, secure food sufficiency and local production. I commend the lofty idea and its welcome development if well implemented.”
It will be recalled that last week Tuesday, the government of Benin Republic, sent a delegation to seek President Muhammadu Buhari’s intervention for Nigeria to help the country produce rice.
According to the delegation the aim was to stop smuggling and rice importation in the two countries.