The Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed has refuted the United States Department of Agriculture’s World Markets and Trade Report on rice importation in the country.
The USDA had said the country imported three million metric tonnes of rice in 2018, 400,000 metric tonnes more than the quantity imported in 2017.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mohammed told reported at the Presidential Villa, Abuja that there is no truth in the story.
“I want to say categorically that, that story is false. Predictably, the Atiku Media Organisation, this afternoon, latched onto the story. We are not surprised,” he noted.
“I want to say categorically that, that story is fake and that Atiku Media Organisation also goofed.”
He added that “For starters, you cannot import rice without a Form M being approved. You can’t import rice without Letter of Credit.
“So, we challenge the US Department of Agriculture World Markets and Trade Report to provide evidence that Form M was opened to bring in 400,000 metric tonnes over and above that of last year and that Letters of Credit were also opened for them.
“Two, the records are very clear as to the importation of rice. You don’t have to take my words for it, but go to Thailand Rice Miller and the figures are there.
“In 2014, 1.2 million metric tonnes of rice was exported to Nigeria. In 2015, 644 metric tonnes of rice was exported to Nigeria, and by 2015, it went down to 5,000 metric tonnes.
“These are not my figures; these are figures from the Thailand Rice Association.
“The claim that local rice production is on the decline is again absolutely false. Yesterday (Monday), when I spoke to the millers, all of them said, ‘please, just come to Kano, come to my factory you are going to see a two-kilometer length of trailers waiting to discharge paddy rice.’
“So, I want to say categorically again without fear of contradiction that the Anchor Borrowers Rice Programme is working.
“Nigeria has been able to reduce by 90 percent the $1.65bn it was paying on rice importation, the number of integrated rice processing mills increased from 13 to 25.
“Those are the majors and that between the smaller ones and the big ones, today the capacity is 4.9 metric tonnes of rice.
“That is why we are confident that in a year plus we are going to meet the six million metric tonnes of rice production which is our.
“We have grown rice farmers from five million to 12 million. Those facts are out there. We have created prosperity for rice farmers.
“We have about 32 or 34 states that produce rice, you can ask them.”