LAND BORDER CLOSURE: MERIT OR DE-MERIT?

I have always wondered what a survey on the number of persons that do not consume rice on Christmas day or any other day in Nigeria for that matter would reveal. I just might never know! This piece takes a look at land border closure.

Rice is a widely consumed staple food in many Nigeria homes, mainly because it is readily available, and until recently, quite affordable; in time past, the commodity was perceived as food for the rich, but from interactions, I see that this might not be so anymore or maybe not, considering the attention the commodity has received in the last couple of months leading to an upsurge in its price. So how does this relate to the land border closure?

According to Aljazeera, President Muhammadu Buhari unexpectedly closed Nigeria’s borders to imported goods in August declaring the time had come to end rampant smuggling across the porous frontiers.

The closure has had a devastating effect on Benin, Nigeria’s neighbour to the west, which has been a key exporter of foodstuffs to Africa’s most populous country. It has also pushed up prices for staples such as rice at markets around Nigeria.

Land Border closure: Quick Facts

Consequently, it will interest you to know that Nigeria is the largest producer of rice in Africa; producing about 5.8 million tonnes per annum (FAOSTAT2017). Ironically, the country stands as the largest importer of rice in the African region (this may have changed with the recent government efforts to limit its importation).

However, this position is owing to the fact that the nation consumes more rice than it produces – approximately 7.9 million tonnes per annum (Udemezue, 2018) – thus the need for importation to meet up with domestic demands. You may agree with me that this is quite appalling bearing in mind that Nigeria has the potentials to produce rice in all 36 States of the Federation and the FCT.

Moreover, this brief background seeks to create an image of the critical need to look into the challenges faced across the rice value-chain in Nigeria and how the rice industry can be supported for progression. It also attempts to justify the Federal Government’s focus on limiting its importation in order to boost local production.

Context

Additionally, the Federal Government in 2015 banned the importation of rice by restricting the provision of foreign exchange to foreign rice importers; this led to the increase in rice smuggling.

In 2019, after the blanket ban of food importation, the government shut down land borders to restrict activities of smugglers and set up a tax force to invade warehouses for smuggled foreign rice. Consequently, within a space of 1 month, the price of a bag of foreign rice has gone from about N18,000 to N25,000/N27,000 per bag, with the price of locally produced rice competing keenly.

In the light of the facts stated above, the festive reason is fast approaching, giving room to worry about how high this hike would get and the sustainability of the land border closure. This brings us to the following questions;
a. What happens if/when the borders are eventually reopen?
b. Are there are palliative measures in place to cushion the effects of this trend?
c. Is the Federal Government making realistic efforts to encourage Nigerian farmers to produce more rice?
d. Has the Federal Government explored other measures like increasing tax on importation and local sales of rice and ensuring its enforcement?
e. Is the Federal Government focusing on rice at the expense of other agricultural commodities?
f. Should citizens consider consuming less rice to reduce the attention the commodity receives?
g. Is it too early to even ask any questions at all?
If you have gone through the article above, I am interested in getting your thoughts/perspective. Please share in the comments section.

Thanks for taking out time to read this piece.

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2 thoughts on “LAND BORDER CLOSURE: MERIT OR DE-MERIT?

  1. “Must we eat rice?” was what my uncle asked me when we were discussing this issue sometime ago. Really, it’s a no brainer as consumers, though it’s hard especially for most young folks who can almost not survive without rice.

    Secondly, I’m not a fan of this administration but I think the boarder closure move gives the farmers an edge in terms of getting their products sold for the right prices.

    Great article Esther.

    1. Thank you Dolapo for your comments, always. I couldn’t agree more; I look forward to seeing the Nigerian local rice in more social gatherings, restaurants and dinning tables. But this is hugely dependent on what government actions follow the border closure. Cheers!

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