As the 2019 season moves to the climax, Rice farmers and millers in Ebonyi State on 23rd December, 2019 decried the crash in the prices of Abakaliki rice and low patronage by consumers.
The low patronage also affected agro-processing dealers who engage in de-stoning business in the mill.
The farmers and the millers told our correspondent that after putting in huge amount of money during farming, they had expected to record good sales of the paddy and make gains but that the reverse was the case.
The farmers who had come from their different villages to mill and sell the rice for Christmas, however, attributed the crash in price and low patronage to the non-payment of workers by the government.
A visit to Abakaliki Rice Mill Industry along Ogoja Road Abakaliki, indicates that a 25kg bag of rice which was previously sold between N7,000 and N8,000 when federal government closed borders, is currently sold between #5,500, N6,000 and N7,000.
The sellers and the farmers lamented that there is no customer to buy and the mill will close on Tuesday, December 24th.
One of the rice farmers and millers, Simon Adiekwe from Imo State who spoke to Citizens’ Advocate said he started milling in the industry since 1980 and people from East and West were trooping to the industry to buy the commodity in large quantity when borders were closed but this Christmas it is not so.
He said that he could not sell his own rice paddy because the prize is not up to the amount he spent on farming.
He said he decided to take the rice home for his children to consume it than to sell it at the lower price.
He said “I came to this mill in 1980. I have a milling machine in this industry and I also cultivate rice. This year, Nigeria borders were closed by the federal government. Because of this, demand for Abakaliki rice became very high; people from the East and other parts of the country started rushing it. The price increased immediately from N5,000 to N7,000 and even N8,000 per bushel (N25kg).”
“This December, the price started coming down and those who usually come from the East and other parts of the country to buy it stopped coming the way they used to come.”
“The situation affected the sales of Abakaliki Rice. A bushel (25kg) is between N5,800 and N6,000. So, price of rice is crashing instead of going higher and we are not witnessing high patronage the way it should be because of this festive period. Workers said they have not been paid; maybe it is the cause of low patronage.”
“If workers are paid, I think the sales will increase because the workers will definitely come to buy it. Workers are among those that patronize us. If this low patronage and price of the commodity continues, farmers may not have much interest in farming.”
“I invested N15,000 in cultivating the little rice I cultivated during the farming season. I have sold the one I processed for N6,200 and sent the remaining one to my children for them to eat because it is better they eat it than selling it the way it is currently sold without gains”.
Another farmer, Mrs. Alice Akuku, a rice farmer and seller, from Nwaoji Azuofia Okpitumo, in Abakaliki Local Government Area said the price of Abakaliki rice has remained standstill since this December.
Mrs Alice who spoke in Izzi language said if the market will remain like that, farmers will not have money to go into farming during farming season next year.
She said, “The price now is N6,000, N5, 500 . The price crashed in this December before now it was N6500, 7000 25kg, longrich is N7,000, N7,500 before now and 306 paddy was sold at N6,500 and N 6,000 but now the highest is N6,500 .”
“The low price have affected our gains because farmers didn’t even get cost of planting the rice let alone making gains. The loss is much when you calculate the expenses used in cultivating the rice and the prize rice is been sold now, you will see that a bag is sold at N5,000.”
Also, Lawrence Nwankpu a rice farmer, from Okpitumo Community in Izzi Local Government Area said, there is no customer for patronage.
He said, “There is no customer to patronize us this festive season, I don’t know if it is because they introduced weighing scale.”
In a visit to another rice mill located in Ikwo Local Government, one of the sellers, Mrs. Ugbo Nwakaego said that she was shocked to see that no trailer have come to the mill, that earlier before now, lorries from different parts of the East normally come to buy rice in bulk from the Nwangagbo mill.
She attributed the low patronage to bad economy in the nation.
She said, “Government needs to assist the rice farmers with loan so that they will be able go back to farm next farming season, should the price of rice continue to crash.”