With countdown to Christmas, prices of 50kg bag of rice are already hitting beyond the roof including other ingredients, rice millers under the auspices of Rice Millers Association of Nigeria, RIMAN, Wednesday, expressed pain and frustration over the massive impact of the devastating flood on their mills to feed Nigerians.
Speaking on the plight of rice millers across the country, the National President, RIMAN, Peter Dama, said millers are down with serious frustration as they have lost machinery and rice paddy for production to the ravaging flood.
Peter said to compound plight of rice millers is the loans assessed from banks for their business, and the payment with interest stares at their faces, because they least expected this quantum of devastation occasioned by the flood.
He said Rice millers to survive with their families and also be in business is a big problem as most of the millers are displaced and are in Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camps for survival.
He said: “Rice millers are still regretting the devastation of their rice mills and rice farms.
“They are presently waiting and hoping that there will be some interventions from government and donor agencies to assist them with funding to go back into business once again.
“The extent of damage is very high & devastating because a number of mills were submerged , while rice farms were washed off.
“Some of these millers took loans and they have to pay back to the banks, and unless government intervene, for these loans to be rescheduled or written off completely, rice millers and farmers will find it difficult to operate optimally.
“At the moment, Paddy is very expensive all over the country , because of high costs of farm Inputs and the flood that has washed off so many rice farms.
“At North Western Zone of the country, 75kg bag of Paddy is going for between N20,000 – 21,000 , depending on the quality, while in Plateau State @ Shendam local government area of the State, 120kg bag goes for N30,000 .
“In the South East 100 kg bag goes for N27000. Take note this is the season for harvesting of rice but the prices of paddy is still very high
“We are expecting the prices will go down but rather it is rising by the day in the markets.
“For now I have no records of mills that have been revived. Am sure it will take a little bit of time to clear off the mess and devastation caused by the floods. Millers are still trying to recuperate from the devastation.
“Our plea to banks is to beg them to reschedule the grants or loans granted to millers. The interest rates be drastically reduced to one percent or the loans be completely written off.”
He also gave update on what RIMAN is doing currently to seek for assistance to ameliorate plight of rice millers.
“RIMAN as an association, has escalated the news about the effect of flood disaster as it affects rice millers, to both local, states and federal government to come to their aid.
“Added to this we have also called on donor agencies, where possible to come to the aid of the flood victims.
“We have equally appealed to banks to reschedule loans or grants advanced to the flood victims” he said.
Meanwhile, he expressed hope that the Federal Government inaugurated presidential committee on flooding would bring intervention package to his members.
“There is some hope from the Federal Government and donor agencies. This is because we have heard that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has set up a presidential committee to look into the plights of flood victims through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
“We believe this presidential committee will be able to reach the identified victims with their palliatives and financial assistance.
“Also, we have read that donor agencies like International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, United States of America, USA , the United Kingdom, UK, governments and some Nigerian politicians have provided financial assistance to flood victims in some States, and we believe some of our millers through this intervention would also be reached if things are done appropriately by identifying those that are actually affected , without bringing in political consideration or political affiliation before one is considered to benefit from the intervention programme being envisaged”, he added.