The Nigerian Renascent Group, a pressure group on food security, says major rice distributors should be encouraged to boost the circulation of local rice across the country.
The group’s Acting Secretary, Mr Abdulrasaq Lawal, said this in an interview with News men in Lagos.
He said that over the years, rice distribution had mainly flowed from major distributors to other parts of the country, while the rice industry depended on them.
“The major rice distributors can be utilised in ensuring that local rice gets to every nook and cranny of the country.
“Those involved in local rice production are lamenting about the activities of smugglers; they are also in dire need of funds which these major rice distributors can easily and readily provide.
“They can buy off rice in large quantities from rice producers if the environment is conducive; through that way, local rice producers will have funds to produce massively to meet the food self-sufficiency goal of the government.
“The major rice distributors are individuals with strong financial capacity to bankroll other rice dealers nationwide. They also have the wherewithal and willingness to facilitate a turnaround of local rice production, as they have the requisite network and cash.
“They even have the goodwill of their bankers who would give them cash to become actively involved in the policy of food self-sufficiency and backward integration,” he said.
Lawal said that the major distributors, however, needed commitment and assurance from the government that their investments in rice distribution and actual production of rice would be protected from the menace of smuggling.
He said that the major distributors also needed assurance that their transportation of local rice brands across the country would not be disturbed by the officials of the Nigerian Customs Service.
Lawal said that for the country to quickly achieve food self-sufficiency, the major rice distributors ought to be incorporated into the scheme of things, as they had vital roles to play in the plans.
He urged Nigerian entrepreneurs to engage in rice production, adding that the government should also put in place an environment that was conducive to local rice production.
He noted that even though the demand for imported rice was still high, the demand would definitely fall if local rice was produced in large quantities for it to become more available and more affordable.