Nigeria has achieved 56 per cent rice production in the last one year, leaving a deficit of 2 million tons to meet local demand.

The country’s consumption is 4.5 million metric tons annually but the country still depends on foreign rice to meet its huge appetite.

It was learnt that despite the refusal of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to grant letter of credit, importers have succeeded in importing 2.3 million metric tons of rice valued at N430.5billion ($1,20billion) in 2017. Average price of parboil rice at the global market is $520 per metric ton since November 2017.

Findings revealed that the country has not attained 90 per cent local production as claimed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as local production is just four million tons of paddy rice.

According to the Secretary of Rice Millers, Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RIMIDAN), Shaibu Mohammed, the country’s production is only 2.5million tons or 56 per cent out of the four million paddy.

Mohammed feared that it would be difficult for the country to end importation or achieve self-sufficiency in rice production by 2018 due to continued importation of parboil rice from Thailand and other countries.

He stressed that the gap between demand and supply was still huge.

He said: “If we produce four million tons of paddies, your yield, which is the finished product, will be about 56 per cent. Which means the head rice you get will be about 2.5million tons out of four million paddy.”

It would be recalled that CBN stopped issuing Form M to rice importers in 2015 in order to encourage local production.

However, New Telegraph findings revealed that regardless of the restriction, a total of 2. 4million tons were shipped into the country in 2016, while the country has so far imported 2.3 million tons this year, leaving a difference of only 100,000 tons.

In 2016, CBN complained that the amount spent on rice importation between January 2012 and May 2015 had led to a huge stock of unsold paddy rice cultivated by Nigerian farmers and low operating capacities of many integrated rice mills in Nigeria.

The Controller of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS)’s Federal Operation Unit, Comptroller Mohammed Uba, explained that the rice coming legally through the port had been ordered based on contractual agreement between importers and the sellers before the CBN embargo.

The controller said that Federal Government was serious about rice production in the country.

He said: “If you see any rice at the port, it must be a contractual agreement spanning two years by the importers and the sellers. In the last two years, CBN has never issued Form M or letter of credit to rice importers.”

However, Uba said that the invasion of foreign smuggled rice through the land border was frustrating government efforts to boost local production, which had crashed prices of foreign rice.

Last year, NCS impounded some rice worth N597.7 billion smuggled into the country through the land borders between January and August 2016.

The service said that the value of the grain seized in the period was N267.2 billion higher than N330.5 billion rice seized in the same period in 2015.

It explained: “Over half of imports in 2015 entered from neighboring Benin where the duty on rice is only 12 per cent. Nigerian consumes parboiled rice exclusively, but Benin prefers white rice, it is easy to deduce that the 85 per cent share of Benin imports that are parboiled are bound for Nigeria through the orchestrations of clever traders.”