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If borders remain shut, bag of foreign rice to sell N50,000 in December

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Despite many states struggling to pay the N30,000 minimum wage, Nigerians may buy a 50kg bag of imported parboiled rice for as high as N50,000 in December if the land borders remain shut, BusinessDay reports.

For the past five weeks since the country closed its land borders, the price of rice, a major staple in the Nigerian diet, has soared by 86 percent to an all-time high of N27,000 per 50kg from N14,500 before the border closure, an indication that local rice farmers do not currently have the capacity to meet local demand.

According to Business Day report, sellers of rice in Lagos, the country’s commercial nerve-centre, are currently hoarding the commodity in anticipation of selling at a higher price during the festive period when demand for the product is usually higher.

“The price of imported parboiled rice is increasing daily because of the border closure and lots of traders are now warehousing it to sell in December,” said a trader at Daleko market in Mushin, Lagos, who gave her name as Adegoke.

“We believe that the price will go as high as N50,000 per bag if the borders remain closed,” she said.

Local parboiled rice is not left out of the party as the price of a 50kg bag of Lake Rice, a product of a collaboration between Lagos and Kebbi States, has also increased by 22 percent from N13,500 five weeks ago to N16,500, BusinessDay market survey finds.

In Kebbi, northeast region of the country, a 50kg of Labana Rice sells for N15,000 as against N13,500 sold before the border closure.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) puts Nigeria’s milled 2018/2019 rice production at 4.78 million tons, while the Federal Ministry of Agriculture puts the country’s domestic demand at 7 million tons per annum.

This shows a demand-supply gap of 2.2 million tons, meaning domestic supply is insufficient for the country to feed its 200 million people.

“The government did not put in place adequate plans before shutting down the border. The decision has only worsened the sufferings of Nigerians,” said AfricanFarmer Mogaji, head of agriculture and agro-allied group, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), in a response to questions.

“We still do not grow enough rice to feed our population and the government is yet to fix issues of insecurity and kidnapping that have been a major threat to food security in the country,” Mogaji said.

He said that millers cannot ramp up production if farmers fail to increase their production, adding that lots of farmlands were abandoned owing to issues of insecurity.

Mogaji’s assertion is evident in the second-quarter Gross Domestic Product report as growth in the sector slowed to 1.7 percent compared to 3.1 percent in the first quarter.

This was attributed to the disruption of farming activities in April through June by armed bandits. Also, the shortfall in supply since the border closure has caused severe hardship for consumers.

“How do I afford to buy a bag of rice for N27,000 when I earn only N30,000? What will I have left to feed my children and for our upkeep?” asked a buyer at Mushin market who gave her name as Chukwu.

“We have been managing since but the recent border closure that has led to an increase in food items has made things worse for us,” she told BusinessDay.

The reading of the headline inflation for September will capture the price growth triggered by the border closure when released in a few days’ time, experts say.

Mazi John Okoli, a rice dealer in Anambra, said many families are unhappy owing to the increasing food prices that have caused untold hardship in the country.

“It is difficult for families as the high cost of food items in the markets is seriously affecting their lives. Husbands and wives of many poor families are quarrelling daily because they cannot afford to feed twice daily,” Okoli said.

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