The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC) and the Nigeria Customs Service are partnering to increase surveillance in monitoring activities at the border posts to curb rice smuggling.
The Acting Director-General, NAFDAC, Mr Yetunde Oni, said this at a news conference on Tuesday in Abuja.
Oni said that records showed that rice imported through the seaports were registered as good quality as pronounced by satisfactory reports from NAFDAC laboratories while those smuggled through the land borders were unregistered and largely substandard.
“In order to actualise our core statutory functions in the effective inspection of imported NAFDAC regulated products, the agency strongly collaborated with customs at the seaports, airport and land borders to ensure that only wholesome, good quality and safe products are allowed into the country.
“NAFDAC is poised to joining hands with customs to increase surveillance and monitoring activities at all border posts to curb the menace of rice smuggling through the land borders.
“I wish to reaffirm that the existing cooperation and collaboration with NCS will be strengthened and sustained to continue to assist NAFDAC in delivering on its mandate on safeguarding the health of the Nation,’’ Oni said.
She said Nigeria had only 42 local rice producers that registered with NAFDAC.
According to her, to curb the influx of fake and counterfeit medicines into the shores, the Federal Government designated some ports as entry points for drugs and pharmaceutical raw materials.
She said that the importation of the products through the land borders was strictly prohibited.
Oni said the designated ports for food products were Apapa port, Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Port-Harcourt International Airport, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport and Akanu Ibian International Airport, Enugu.
She said with the ban on importation of rice through land borders, NAFDAC aligned with customs to support current effort in preventing importation and clearance of the product through the system.
Oni said this would help reduce the amount of foreign exchange used in the importation of rice.
She added that it would also reduce loss of revenue through smuggling and grow the milling of local rice through the promotion of strategic investment in local production.
The Chairman, Presidential Committee on Trade Malpractice, Alhaji Dahiru Kurawa, said 10 years ago, Nigeria was only importing 1.5 tonnes of rice, was now importing three million tonnes.
Kurawa said the importation had caused a huge derange in the country’s foreign exchange.
He said 80 per cent of rice cultivated in the world was produced in a small hectare of land, adding that only China and Japan were cultivating it with machinery.
“Nigerians need to grow rice to consume rather than depending on imported rice which is harmful to our health.
“Nigerians can produce rice to feed its populace; all it needs is little efforts.
“We need to replace 50 per cent of what we import; that is why government is adamant in stopping smuggling of rice into the country,’’ Kurawa said.
He said that the agency was established to assist manufacturing sector and other sectors to compete with foreign market.
Gov Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi, said the state government had invested huge amount of funds in the cultivation of rice.
Bugudu said Nigeria rice was competitive and comparable with other countries.