abakaliki riceBy Concise News correspondents

A bag of Abakaliki rice now sells for N8, 000 in Ebonyi State following the FG-backed ban on importation of foreign rice into the state by Gov Dave Umahi, Concise News gathers.

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The Acting Director of Corporate Communications of the apex bank, Isaac Okorafor, said this in Yenagoa at a sensitization workshop for farmers.

The theme of the workshop is entitled: “Promoting Stability and Economic Development’’.

He also said that the Anchor Borrowers Programme of  the CBN and the Presidential Committee on Rice Production launched in July suggests that Nigeria will meet its target of exporting rice by 2017.

According to him, farmers in Kebbi, Jigawa, Ebonyi, Sokoto and Cross River states, among others, have already keyed into the programme, resulting in massive rice cultivation.

He said the country would achieve self-sustenance in rice production if the momentum was sustained, adding that the country should commence exportation of locally produced rice by 2017.

Okorafor said Kebbi State had already harvested one million tons of rice, adding that Ebonyi’s harvest had outstripped the earmarked production for the year.

“The development is encouraging and by the end of 2017, we will not only meet our national demand which is between six and seven million tons but have surplus to export.

“We must rid ourselves of eating foreign rice that has been stored for over nine years in Thailand, Vietnam and India. Nigerian rice is fresh and healthier.

“We should eat Nigerian rice provided for by the CBN Anchor Programme; 50 Kg of local rice is now N8, 000 in Ebonyi. Already, the Abia Government has ordered rice from Ebonyi for Christmas,’’ Okoroafor added.

Conspiracy by rice importers

In a related development, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, has drummed support for Ebonyi State government over the ban on the sale of foreign rice.

Adamu described the campaign against the local production and consumption of rice as a conspiracy between rice importers and some elites in the country.

Sen. Adamu also called for prompt arrest of rice smugglers.

“I believe that the campaign against local production of rice is a campaign spear-headed by rice importers,” he said.

“I do not believe we cannot produce enough rice for ourselves. We may not at this point in time be having enough for everybody but the campaign against ban on importation of rice is an elitist campaign.

“There is collaboration between importers and elites in the country.

“We have rice. We should eat our rice. There is nowhere our local rice has harmed anybody and the more we eat our rice, the more we put our farmers in business.

“I support the ban on sale of foreign rice in Ebonyi. We have to start somewhere. What we know is that local production is not enough but we should consume it and that is not an excuse for importing rice.

“We cannot afford the luxury of importation particularly in this period of recession,” Adamu said.