Hoarders responsible for rising price of rice – millers

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Some rice millers in Gombe State on Friday blamed the rising price of rice on the unavailability of paddy for processing rice due to hoarding by some merchants.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that paddy is a major raw material used in the processing of rice.

The millers, who spoke to NAN in Gombe, described the situation as frustrating.

According to them, there is pressure on any available paddy as a result of the activities of middlemen who have been alleged to have bought paddy and stored it in their warehouses to the detriment of Nigerians.

Mr Auwal Manu, the production manager at Lula Rice, said the price of rice had almost doubled within the last three weeks because of the unavailability of Paddy brand rice.

According to Manu, paddy is scarce, and there is a lot of pressure on the little available because middlemen, during the 2023 harvest, mopped up paddy brands and refused to release them to the market.

This, he said, had led to the increasing price of rice as those who have paddy now determine the price they want their commodity sold.

“This has affected and halted production in our company because paddy is the major raw material for rice processing venture.

“A bag of paddy now is about N50,000 which cannot give you 50kg of processed rice, so how does one continue business and make a profit?

“Before now, a bag of paddy was sold for between N15,000 and N20,000 but now it goes for N47,000 upwards.

“Weekly, we used to process at least three truckloads of rice, which is 1,800 bags of 50kg rice, but today, for the past two months, we have halted production,” he said.

Manu said their workers had been asked to stay at home until the company gets adequate supply of paddy to process.

He appealed to the Federal Government to intervene, take action against food hoarders, and increase investment in the agriculture sector during this year’s wet season so that farmers could produce more.

“I appeal to hoarders, let them fear God. Nigerians are suffering as a result of their activities.

“This ought not to be because we are supposed to be our brother’s keepers as Nigerians and not allow our actions to inflict hardship on fellow citizens,” he said.

For Alhaji Musa Arab, a rice processor at Nasarawo Industrial Layout, Gombe, the rising price of rice was the result of three reasons, which he attributed to subsidy removal, insecurity, and activities of hoarders.

Arab, who is also a large-scale rice farmer, said the subsidy removal impacted the cost of farming, making it too expensive and out of reach for many local farmers.

He said that security issues affected many farmers who had abandoned their farmlands, leaving few to cultivate the commodity, and “to make it worse, the little produce is mopped up by middlemen’’.

“I think government should urge big rice companies to set up their own farms and go into farming instead of bringing in big money to buy paddy from local farmers so they can be in business all year round.

“Today, even local millers have nothing to process, and you know the ordinary man cannot afford these big companies’ processed rice, so the whole issue is on Nigerians,” he said.

Yusuf Abdullahi, another miller at Gombe’s main market, said many of the middlemen were already getting ready to invade villages to mop up paddy, which had been cultivated by farmers during the dry season.

Abdullahi said such would worsen the current situation, hence the need for punitive measures against hoarding because “it increases hardship and worsens unemployment status in the country.

“For now, we are no longer milling because no paddy, and many of our workers are now at home without jobs; it has never been this bad.

“Government must go tough against hoarders; otherwise, they will create a food crisis although there is food in this country,” he said.

Others who spoke to NAN shared similar experiences while urging farmers to desist from selling paddy to those who have no business with farming.

NAN reports that as at Friday at the Gombe main market, a bag of 50kg rice is N75,000, while the locally processed 50kg rice is between N56,000 and N60,000 depending on the quality.

About three weeks back, same bag of the foreign rice was sold for about N55,000 while the locally processed rice was sold for between N42,000 and N47,000.

For the big local rice bag, which contains 100kg, is sold for between N115,000 and N125,000 depending on the quality, as against N75,000 a few weeks ago.

NAN

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