The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, says Thailand has accused Nigeria of being responsible for the collapse of its seven rice mills following the drastic fall in rice importation from the country.
The minister made this known at a meeting of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) and leadership of the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers of Nigeria (FEPSAN) held at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday.
The meeting was presided by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr. Ogbeh said Thailand’s Ambassador to Nigeria made the “accusation’’ when he visited him in February.
According to the minister, the ambassador lamented that the collapse of the rice mills has increased the unemployment rate in his country from 1.2 per cent to 4 per cent.
“Just like two weeks ago, the Ambassador of Thailand came to my office and said to me that we have really ‘dealt’ with them.
“But I asked what did we do wrong and he said unemployment in Thailand was one of the lowest in the world, 1.2 per cent, it has gone up to four per cent because seven giant rice mills have shut down because Nigeria’s import has fallen by 95 per cent on rice alone.
“So, Mr President we thank you for the support and we thank all the agencies and those of you in the private sector for your resilience.’’
The minister, however, alerted the nation on what he described as alarming smuggling of fake fertiliser and rice along the western borders of the country.
He, therefore, called on the Federal Government to take drastic measures to check the trend as all previous diplomatic measures had failed to address the menace.
“But one last request Mr President, we have to take one strong measure against our neighbour to the West. The smuggling is really compromising our capacity on our result.
“Too much rice, too much fake fertiliser is still coming across the borders into this country in spite of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) we have with them they are not listening.
“Maybe if the Federal Government take one tough action, they will come and renegotiate the terms because good neighbourliness means reciprocity.
“We can’t be allowing them to survive at our own expense and I believe that we will do something about it.’’