The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has blamed the rising cost of rice across the country on the activities of smugglers.

Smuggling has led to the increased price of rice despite the government’s efforts on several initiatives to encourage local production of the product.

This was made known by Ahmed while speaking at a Channels Television programme, Politics Today, on Thursday, November 11, 2021, where she said that smuggling is affecting the market and hurting the citizens.

What the Finance Minister is saying

Ahmed during the interview said, ‘’Unfortunately there is a lot of distortion and the distortion is arising from smuggling of goods into the country. We have unpatriotic Nigerians that will bring rice that is of poor quality, some of it not even fit for human consumption and come and dump it in the market.”

She highlighted the Federal Government’s efforts at fighting smuggling with a combined team of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Police, the Department of Security Services (DSS) among others to rid the nation of economic saboteurs.

Speaking on the Federal Government’s fresh loan request that was recently approved by the National Assembly, the Minister pointed out that the administration has created a Medium-Term Debt Management Strategy, noting that the borrowings are not being done by fiat.

She noted that the loan request that was just approved by the lawmakers had been in the National Assembly since early this year.

She said, “It is encapsulated in a plan, we are guided by the Fiscal Responsibility Act that sets the limit of how much you can borrow at any particular time. We have also structured the borrowing to make sure that we have the balance between domestic borrowing as well as external financial borrowings.’’

What you should know

The Federal Government had banned the provision of foreign exchange by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the importation of rice. The government also banned the importation of rice through the land borders into the country.

Despite these efforts at encouraging local production of rice, the price of the product keeps rising against the backdrop of increased domestic production.

The ban on the importation of rice has been criticised by some experts as they said it did not take into consideration the limited capacity of some of the local farmers and also the inability of domestic production to meet the increasing demand.

Insecurity has also played a part in the rising cost of food items as some of the country’s main food production areas have been faced with a lot of security challenges.