Prof. Akpan Ekpo, Director General, West African Institute of Financial and Economic Management, has advised the Federal Government against spending so much foreign exchange on the importation of rice.
Ekpo gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Friday, saying such expenditure would deplete that national reserve.
“For us to be spending so much foreign exchange in this dwindling oil revenue to import rice from Thailand does not make any economic sense.
“This is because we have stockpiles of rice by our farmers producing quality rice across all the states.
“For us to conserve our foreign reserve, we can use some of the foreign exchange to buy machines and help improve the farmers to produce more.
“Is it not yet time for the CBN to stop rice importers from accessing the interbank market and conserve the country’s very limited foreign exchange? ‘’
Ekpo said that continued rice importation was not necessary “in view of the fact that the rice produced in the country right now is of the highest global quality and there is still plenty of land for more cultivation’’.
He advised the government to support local production of rice and gradually stop importation
He said at present supporting local production involved getting adequate machinery and ensuring that the products enjoyed patronage among Nigerians.
He said that at the moment many rice farmers still found it difficult to transport their products for consumers to buy and suggested that transportation facilities be improved to develop the rice sector.
He said that the situation in some rice producing states, such as Kebbi, was disturbing
“In the last harvest season, farmers attained very high yields of about seven tonnes per hectare, whereas the average yield is about 4.5 tonnes per hectare.
“In the absence of off-takers for this bumper harvest, the state government indicated that it had invested N800 million to purchase over 180, 000 tonnes of rice for storage from local farmers,” Ekpo said.
He said the government intervened to encourage the formers to continue working considering that Kebbi was the only one among nearly 20 states that could grow rice in commercial quantity.
Ekpo said that in Jega and Yola-Augie only 20 per cent of 500,000 hectares of land available for rice cultivation was being used.
Source : Leadership