Hunger Looms as Northern Merchants Storm Anambra Rice Producing Communities

By Michael Nnebife

As prices of agricultural commodities continue to rise on daily basis in Nigeria’s Markets, rice consumers in Anambra State are to face the worst in the near future as big rice merchants presumed to be coming from Northern Nigeria stormed Ayamelum Local Government Area,  of the state to buy up all available unprocessed rice in the area.

Investigation revealed that a bushel of rice which sold at N15,500, and N16,000, depending on the grade as of July and August this year, is being sold at N17,500, N18,000 and N19,000 as of last week in the area.

According to a rice mill operator, one Mr Mike, in the area, the surge in the price of the commodity which was supposed to have recorded a relative reduction now, is as a result of the influx of those he described as ‘government officials, and big traders from Northern Nigeria’ into the areas to buy any available rice, both processed and unprocessed.

He said, ‘Few weeks ago, we began to see big government officials and big businessmen from the North coming down to buy rice, especially the unprocessed ones.

‘Because of this, the prices now jumped to N17, 500, N18, 000, and N19, 000, for a bushel, depending on the grade.

‘The prices are supposed to come down as new rice is out, but due to the fact that the buyers are rushing, even moving to the farms to get any available rice, the reverse is the case,’ he said.

Also a rice de-stoning machine operator in the area who identified himself as Obodo, was of the opinion that a situation like this had never occurred in the area.

He alleged that it was as a result of border closure between Nigeria and Niger by the Federal Government.

He stated that the development showed that northern rice that usually flooded markets in the East came from Niger. ‘Because of the closure of border by the Federal Government, the northern rice is no longer coming in; now, big northern rice dealers are shifting direction to the East,’ he said.

A farmer, Mr Anthony Okolo, said this year recorded a good harvest, but regretted that the impressive yields had been sold to buyers at a very high price, resulting in insufficient availability of the commodity in the area presently.

Mr Okolo, who said that a 350kg bag of unprocessed rice that was sold at the price of N50, 000, last year, is today sold at N65, 000, expressed the fear that the situation would surely bring about a heavy scarcity of the commodity in no distant time as virtually all the farmers had sold off their produce.

Okolo however stated that a rice farmer in the area could boast of making millions of Naira from just a single season farming this year.

He said farmers in Ayamelum could feed Anambra State and the entire Southeast if the farmers in the area could be adequately supported by the government.

While identifying high cost of labour and farm inputs, perennial flooding, unavailability of access roads to farms, among others, as major challenges facing farmers in the area, Okolo appealed to the state and federal governments to construct storage facilities and reconstruct Green Production and Anamko Anakpulu Roads at Igbakwu Community in Ayamelum LGA.

He expressed optimism that reconstruction of these roads, which he said, provided easy access to Itulu Farm and Aguleri Otu, would not only enable easy evaluation of farm produce to urban centres, but also boost farming activities in the area for food sufficiency.