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Rice ban: Local rice producers now smile to bank

From David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi

The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Stine Industries Limited, Amichi in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State, Chief Akai Egwuonwu, said that the federal government’s ban on the importation of foreign rice into Nigeria to boost local production has yielded positive results.

Chief Egwuonwu said this in Awka when he evaluated the policy in an interview with our Correspondent.

He, however, noted that there were pockets of rice smuggling activities at the borders which he said could only be tackled if the nation’s Customs would mount watertight surveillance at strategic areas.

“Of course, we have those small issues of allowing the smuggling of foreign rice into the country, sometimes in big quantities.

“But by and large, I can say it is under control to a level. The local rice producers enjoy the ban policy especially if you look at local rice these days which can be compared to foreign ones in quality. That is as a result of giving them the chance to improve on their quality and showcase their products in the market,” he noted.

The CEO of the rice milling company and producers of the Anambra Rice brand said the protection of the local rice farmers had helped research and development of rice quality locally.

He insisted that the quality could now be compared with the ones produced overseas.

Chief Egwuonwu mentioned power supply as one of the factors of production that the local rice producers grappled with. He explained that the energy problem had been persistent, adding that improvement in that area had just been experienced in recent time.

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“The cost of diesel is another mind bugling issue bedevilling the industry seriously. If the government can help in that area, we will appreciate it, otherwise, consumers are the people who bear the brunt.

“Diesel costs N800 and above per litre and you can imagine where you buy fifty litres of diesel which will cost over N40,000, I wonder what you can produce with that. So, it’s a major problem. But the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) has improved to a level.

“Other problems are multifaceted. But if we can solve the energy problem, that will go a long way in solving numerous problems. They should also stick to a total ban on rice importation. That will certainly boost local rice farming and rice milling in Nigeria.

“Another one is the issue of herdsmen who stop farmers from going to their farms. It’s another major problem, a serious problem. So, if that can be equally solved, I’m sure Nigeria will be self-sufficient in rice production,” Chief Egwuonwu said.

In the political arena, he said he was not advocating for Mr Peter Obi to be President because he is an Igboman but because he is the most capable of all the presidential candidates at the moment.

“If you look at the three main contenders of Obi, Atiku and Tinubu, I’m sure you will not make that mistake not to vote for Obi. He is young and full of ideas. Obi was tested in Anambra State. He has been consistent ever since then to this moment. I can’t see any sane person who will support any other candidate except Obi,” he said.

Chief Egwuonwu did not rule out rigging. But he added that overwhelming votes expected for Obi would overcome rigging attempts.

In Anambra State, he commended Governor Charles Soludo in his efforts to sanitize Anambra in the area of security challenges.

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