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Massive Smuggling Hits Rice Markets As Tariff Rises

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With the kick-off of the new tariff regime on rice in the country this month, smuggling of the commodity into the country has assumed a frightening dimension, a Tide source gathered over the weekend.

The Agricultural Transformation Agenda of the Federal Government which led to the tariff in- crease was meant to help position locally produced rice to fairly compete In the market with imported ones and move the nation to self sufficiency in rice production.

According to The Tide’s investigation, thousands of bags of rice worth millions of Naira were being smuggled in to the country on a regular basis through waterways linking Nigeria with neigbouring Benin Republic and avoiding every legal duties and thwarting efforts to boost local production as well as sabotaging the business of genuine rice importers.

Nigeria’s local consumption of rice which stands at about 5.5 million tonnes annually and with locally processed rice standing at about 3.5 million tonnes per year, smugglers were taking advantage of the high tariff to make brisk profit through avoiding legitimate levies.

Vice President of Rice Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RIDAN), Mr Boniface Nwodo while commenting on the development said the duty per tonne of rice imported into the country has increased from $227 dollars to $367 or about N58,000 currently adding that the increase was likely to trigger increased smuggling of rice.

According to him, smugglers have devised another means of bringing rice by canoes due to the ban on importation of rice through the nation’s land borders.

Recently, the Federal Government increased the duty on imported rice from 20 percent to 40 per cent but some stakeholders say a computation of this with other charges like ETLS of 0.5 per cent and FOB of one per cent brought the total duty and levies from 32.5 per cent to 50.5 per cent and that this has some impact on trade on rice.

Nwodo said the additional charges would likely encourage smuggling and advised government to monitor the unscrupulous import of rice through its water bodies to achieve its desired policy ideals.

RIDAN’s worries arose amidst reports that over 8,000 bags of rice were smuggled into the country daily and the calculation was that this runs into several millions of naira.

Recently, Minister of Agriculture Dr Akinwumi Adesina said the country would soon build the biggest rice farm in Africa in coordination with a United States bused company.

The project which is expected to gulp about $40 million will produces around 300,000 tonnes of rice and reduce rice imports by 15 per cent and result in import savings to around N54 billion about $342 million every year.

The Federal Government has said that the country has all it take to become an exporter of rice given its huge human and natural resources but arguments are that there was need to ensure availability of the product first given that it is a major staple for millions of Nigerians.

According to the president, the target was for Nigeria which is a top rice importer to produce 2.1 million tones of rice within the next four years as part of the nation’s aim to become rice-sufficient and shift its economy from being oil-centric to agriculture-centric.

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Agriculture

IITA Develops New Potato Variety

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Empowering, Novel, Agri-Business Led, Employment, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (ENABLE TAAT) has recently developed Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) species to tackle malnutrition and reduce diabetes in Africa.
The ENABLE TAAT Field Trainer of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA),  Mr Murtalab Adedamola, made this known in Ibadan yesterday.
He said that the development of the potato species was one of the plans of IITA, aimed at combating malnutrition and attaining food security in Africa.  Adedamola said that OFSP was different from the Irish potato, adding that it contained a lot of water, Vitamin A, high carotene and low level of sugar. “It has two varieties – King J and Mothers’ Delight, and it can be used for baking cake, snacks and bread.
“It is stress-free, its cultivation cycle is within three months; it is not a tuber but a root and it does not go deep into the soil like cassava.
“The growth continues even after harvesting, it is good for children and diabetic patients because of its low level of sugar. Farmers can plant a hectare with just 500kg. vines of OFSP, which multiplies.
“They should cut the vines together, bundle them together, weigh them and then plant them. Farmers can plant at a depth of 20 or 25 cm and at an angle of 45 degrees because the spacing can determine the yield,” he said.  Adedamola advised farmers to always apply MPK fertiliser to the crop after two weeks of planting, as the exercise would go a long way to improve the yield if the crop had access to water.  The field trainer said that the maintenance of an OFSP farm would not require much weeding, adding that the soil would crack while its flowers would shoot out to signal the appropriate time for harvesting.  He, however, warned that the King J variety of OFSP was better grown in the northern parts of the country, while the cultivation of the Mothers’ Delight type would thrive in the South.
“In Cameroon, we have four varieties of OFSP and in Cote d’Ivoire, there are six varieties. Farmers are planting it already but the produce lacks market because people are not aware of its numerous benefits. “When people learn about its benefits, they will start patronising the farmers well; we will definitely have more varieties of it in Nigeria because it is a crop that can transform the livelihood of potato farmers perfectly,’’ he added.

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Agriculture

Assembly Approves N1.5bn Agric Loan

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The Niger State House of Assembly has passed a resolution granting approval to the state government to access a N1.5bn facility for the implementation of the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS).
The House passed the resolution yesterday following the presentation of the report of Joint Committees on Finance and Agriculture.
Presenting the report, Chairman of the Joint Committee, Alhaji Abdullahi Mammagi, said it interfaced with relevant stakeholders to ascertain the justification for the request made.
Mammagi noted that the facility was being offered at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum and 60 months repayment period by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“From the interface held, the committee found that the Federal Government had offered a window of facility to states to support implementation of AADS in states.
“The CBN, through Zenith Bank has offered to provide the of N1.5bn. The facility is offered for a period of 60 months, at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum.
“This is deemed to be highly competitive in terms of what obtains in the banking industry.
“Niger State has keyed into the programme as its implementation would stimulate and support socio-economic development in the state,” he added.
According to him, the repayment cost was manageable, adding that it would not be too much burden on the monthly cash flow of the state.
Similarly, the House commenced debate on the 2019 budget by the governor.

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Agriculture

NGO Urges FG To Increase Agric Financing

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The Fresh and Young Brains Development Initiative (FBIN), an NGO, has appealed to the Federal Government to increase its funding on agriculture, especially for women and youth farmers to increase their yields.
The Founder of the initiative,  Mrs Nkiruka Nnaemego, made the call on Monday in Abuja at the Yfarm National Colloquium on Attracting Public Financing in Sustainable Agriculture for Youth and Women Small Scale Farmers.
Nnaemego said that the Nigerian government had committed to the 2014 Malabo Principles of ensuring increase in public funding to at least 10 per cent of the national budget to the agricultural sector.
According to her, this will enable the countries effectively implement their programmes to reduce hunger and increase productivity among in Africa.
She said that this commitment had not been achieved and it was affecting the productivity of small scale farmers, who consisted of about 70 per cent of the country’s farming population.
“This colloquium provides a unique platform for stakeholders in agriculture to brainstorm on innovative models and approaches for attracting public financing and government involvement in agriculture.
“From the Malabo declaration, which African Heads of State agreed to commit 10 per cent of their countries’ budgets to agriculture, it is unfortunately that Nigeria is still below three per cent.
“Agriculture is the way to go now since the country is looking for other options aside oil. We need to increase finance in agriculture.
“Although the Federal Government is trying, but it should try harder,” she said.
She explained that Yfarm project’s goal was to promote a youth/women-led agribusiness society by reducing poverty, thereby increasing active youth/women participation in sustainable agriculture by 2020.
She said that Yfarm Project had been at the forefront of policy advocacy, media engagement, capacity building and mentoring of rural and vulnerable youth/women in some parts of Africa.
“We celebrate outstanding youths and women, provide access to markets and business networking through our National and African Youth Agric Festivals and Concerts,” she stated.
The Project Coordinator, Food and Agriculture, Actionaid Nigeria,  Mr Azubike Nwokoye appealed to the Federal Government to create an enabling environment to attract private investment. He further urged government at all levels to do their parts by increasing public financing on agriculture across all areas with  comparative advantages.
farming season?
”That is a failure in its own already.”
Soni appealed to the government to make available inputs by January not in April and May when such inputs were not needed.
The Programme Officer, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)  Mr Alphonsus Onwuemeka said that agriculture was in the concurrent list and urged the state governments to play their parts to lessen the burden on the Federal Government.
He acknowledged the Federal Government’s support to agriculture and urged women to take advantage of the gender unit created by government at the Ministry of Agriculture to handle women challenges.

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