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  • Nigeria: Criticisms Trail N90 Billion Annual Rice Import From Vietnam

    Jan 16th, 2015

    Nigerians, especially stakeholders in the maritime industry, have decried the huge amount of money spent by the federal government on importation of rice and other commodities from Vietnam, noting that it could be used to produce the commodities locally with many benefits. The Nigerian-Vietnam Chambers of Commerce and Industry (NVCCI) recently disclosed that Nigeria spends not less than $500 million annually to import rice from Vietnam, while Vietnam spends about $100 million to import agricultural produce such as raw cashew nuts, cassava and oil palm from Nigeria. President of the Chamber, Mr. Oye Akinsemoyin made the disclosure. However, some stakeholders in the maritime industry, who spoke against the backdrop of the dwindling oil prices in the international market, said it does not make economic sense to import what can be produced locally into the country. Also, a Lagos base licensed customs agent, Mr. Timothy Obadina, who spoke on the issue, wondered why Nigeria has continued to import things that are produced locally. " I do not understand this country. Imagine importing rice worth N80 billion from Vietnam annually. How do we encourage the local rice producers in the country? How do we motivate them to expand and employ more hands when we are helping their competitors to strangle them out of business", Obadina rhetorically asked. "This is the figure for Vietnam, we have not added the ones from Thailand, China, and Indonesia. By the time we put all the figures together, it will be astronomical. Yet you hear government officials using every opportunity to say how they have been growing the economy. As far as I am concerned, those are rhetorics. In what specific ways are they motivating and supporting the local rice farmers especially in Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Ogun States and elsewhere? You do not need to go to Havard University to know that as long as we do reduce our dependence on foreign products, particularly the ones we are producing ourselves, we are not going to make headway as a country. In the past, we do not bother about such things because the oil money was flowing endlessly but now that the reality is starring us on the face, we should put on our thinking cap." Another key player in the maritime industry noted that it is not only in the area of rice importation that Nigeria and Nigerians have showed their lack of readiness to grow the economy. He posited that most of the things Nigerians spend billions of naira to import from other countries, thereby developing their own economies at the detriment of ours, are readily available in Nigeria. "All we need is encourage and motivate the people producing the items to do better than they are presently doing. Adequate packaging and marketing will go a long way in changing the status quo," he said.He, however, identified Nigerians penchant for foreign goods as the reason why Nigeria continue to import things we also produce into the country. "Visit any supermarket or shopping mall and you will see the items on display. They are mostly stocked with foreign goods. If the owners of these supermarkets or shopping malls are not getting huge patronage from Nigerians, they will not continue to stock them. This is because nobody goes into a business he or she is not making profit since the profit motive is the sole aim of any business venture. Therefore, the austerity measures we are talking about should start from a change in how abandon our own goods and patronage foreign items. For instance, in the last Christmas and New Year celebrations, how many Nigerians bought ofada rice or Abakiliki rice? The truth is bitter but we must say all the same," he added. The NVCCI president, Akinsemoyin had disclosed that Nigeria imports from Vietnam a wide range of commodities. He listed Vietnam's major exports to Nigeria to include rubber, electric and electronic products, footwear, plastics, handicraft and fine art articles and construction materials, while the country imports from Nigeria raw cashew nuts, fruits, cotton and minerals. Akinsemoyin said: "Basically, Nigeria exports agricultural products. At the moment, Vietnam is the largest importer of Nigeria's raw cashew nuts. Vietnam's cashew import from Nigeria is about a $100 million yearly. Nigeria exports agricultural items like Cassava with which Vietnam produces starch and the raw materials."