Those rushing to buy rice for Christmas and New Year celebrations must watch out as smugglers seem to have flooded the Nigerian market with substandard and expired brands of rice.
Reports say hundreds of trailers filled with suspected expired rice have been crossing the porous Nigerian borders unchallenged.
It was gathered that the supply of expired and poisonous rice to unsuspecting consumers could rapidly develop into a major health disaster if left unchecked.
As a result of this, industry sources and consumers have urged the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to put an end to smuggling.
Industry sources have also called on National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to step up the inspection of rice stored at several locations in the country.
Stakeholders have also called on the Presidency to urgently step in by directing the regulatory agencies to take action to prevent the outbreak of diseases during the yuletide season.
Legal importers paying full tariff of 70 per cent will never be able to compete with smugglers who enjoy a free ride into the market, aided by negligible tariffs in neighbouring Cameroon and Republic of Benin and taking advantage of porous borders.
To add to these woes, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) also barred rice importers from accessing foreign exchange through its window.
The attendant shortage in the market is now being exploited by smugglers, who made significant profit in 2013 when they smuggled around 2.5 million tonnes of rice into the country through the borders, without paying any duty.
In 2013, the Federal Government increased rice importation tariff to 110 per cent as against zero duty regime administered in Benin and Cameroon.
The National Rice Millers Association of Nigeria (NRMAN) has complained that the NCS erred in its decision to lift the ban on rice importation through land borders.
Its chairman said if the NCS succeeds in its decision, it would erode the gains achieved by the previous administration in the country’s rice value chain.