Contrary to the claim by Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbeh that seven Rice Mills have collapsed in Thailand due to the fall in rice importation by Nigeria, it has been revealed by the Thai Rice Exporters Association that rice exports reached a record high last year with most of the demand coming from Benin Republic in West Africa.
Thai Rice Exporters Association President, Pol Lt Charoen Laothammatas, said the export of Thai rice grew 20% during the first 11 months of last year when a total of 10.4 million tons, worth 156 billion baht, were exported.
Rice exports in November last year expanded 47% compared with the same month in 2016. The highest demand for Thai rice came from Benin, China, South Africa, Cameroon and the United States.
Although the official figure for December’s rice export has yet to be revealed, it has been estimated that at least 11.2 million tons were sold overseas, making the annual Thai rice exports the highest ever recorded.
Investigation by Ionigeria.com revealed that the bulk of the rice imported through the Republic of Benin end up in Nigeria because of the restriction placed on rice importation by the Federal government.
According to a stakeholder in the rice value chain who spoke to Ionigeria.com in confidence, “Thailand produces parboil rice but the people in Benin Republic do not consume parboil rice, it therefore means that Nigerians are the people importing Thailand rice through Benin Republic”.
Continuing, he said, “Take a survey of the brands of rice in our markets, you will discover that most of them are foreign”.
While applauding the focus on rice production by the Federal government, he disclosed that local production now cannot meet demand. The shortfall is being taken care of by smuggled rice.
Mr. Ogbeh made his claim at a meeting of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) and leadership of the Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers of Nigeria (FEPSAN) held at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday.
The meeting was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ogbeh said Thailand’s Ambassador to Nigeria made the “accusation’’ when he visited him in February.
According to the minister, the ambassador lamented that the collapse of the rice mills has increased the unemployment rate in his country from 1.2 per cent to 4 per cent.
“Just like two weeks ago, the Ambassador of Thailand came to my office and said to me that we have really dealt with them.
“But I asked what we did wrong and he said unemployment in Thailand was one of the lowest in the world, 1.2 per cent, it has gone up to four per cent because seven giant rice mills have shut down because Nigeria’s import has fallen by 95 per cent on rice alone.
“So, Mr President we thank you for the support and we thank all the agencies and those of you in the private sector for your resilience,’’ he said.
The minister, however, alerted the nation on what he described as alarming smuggling of fake fertilizer and rice along the western borders of the country.
He, therefore, called on the Federal Government to take drastic measures to check the trend as all previous diplomatic measures had failed to address the menace.
“But one last request Mr President, we have to take one strong measure against our neighbour to the West. The smuggling is really compromising our capacity on our result.
“Too much rice, too much fake fertilizer is still coming across the borders into this country in spite of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) we have with them they are not listening.
“Maybe if the Federal Government takes one tough action, they will come and renegotiate the terms because good neighbourliness means reciprocity.
“We can’t be allowing them to survive at our own expense and I believe that we will do something about it,’’ he said.