As Christmas approaches and many persons are apprehensive about how expensive things would be during the festive period, the Federal Government has thrown caution to the wind by stating that there would be a fall in the price of rice before December.
This revelation was made on Monday by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh while addressing members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development at the headquarters of the ministry in Abuja.
According to Ogbeh, more Nigerians had returned to their various farms in the last few months amidst current economic crisis and by implication, the price of rice would begin to crash by the next harvesting season coming up in November.
This is coming on the heels of the government’s inability to implement the capital expenditure in the agricultural sector which was caused by the delay in the approval of the 2016 budget.
“It is about now that the capital expenditure is beginning. One of the reasons why money is not circulating is that we need to follow the due process on issues of procurement, advertisement and others,” he said.
Ogbeh, who stated that the government could not be involved in the importation of rice as speculated in some quarters, stressed that his ministry would not encourage rice importation because it would be detrimental to local production.
The minister maintained that the Federal Government was against rice smuggling, adding that the Seme border had become a notorious route for the smuggling of contraband products into the country.
He said: “We will not encourage rice importation and there is no way our ministry or government can be involved in importing rice when we are working hard to be self-sufficient in local production. By November when the full-scale harvest starts, rice prices will fall.”
Recall that the government had last month warned that the price of rice which currently goes for about N20, 000 may get to an all-time high of N40, 000 per bag by December if Nigerians failed to produce some of the items being imported.
The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, said that the $22bn annual food import bill had led to the astronomical rise in the price of rice and other commodities.
According to him, his ministry has spent just N882.58m, representing four per cent of the N21bn budgeted for it in the 2016 Appropriation Act.
He said: “You may be surprised to know that only six to seven states in Nigeria are showing enthusiasm in agriculture. Some by nature don’t seem interested, while others just can’t connect with whatever we are doing at the federal level.”
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