Rice smuggling leads to Nigeria/Benin border closure


Nigeria partially closed its western border with Benin to curb rice smuggling threatening attempts to boost local production government said.

Government wants Nigeria to be self-sufficient in rice and imposed import controls but these have kept prices high and led to smuggling from Benin to Nigeria.

President Muhammadu Buhari introduced policies aimed at curbing imports to boost local production and conserve foreign exchange reserves.

He said rice smuggling across the western border threatened self-sufficiency.

“The country saved huge sums of money which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using scarce foreign reserves,” Buhari was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his spokesman. “We cannot allow smuggling at such alarming proportions to continue.”

The statement did not say when the border was partially closed.

Buhari said there would be a meeting with Benin and Niger to determine measures to check smuggling.

He said the border closure was limited to allow security forces stem smuggling and he would consider reopening the border.

Government said Nigeria’s imports of rice and wheat together cost almost $4 billion a year but its 190 million people rely on imports for what they consume due to limited growing capacity.

The country considered developing agriculture for export to earn more hard currency and to increase revenues from outside its dominant oil industry.

Earlier this month, Buhari told the central bank to stop providing foreign exchange for food imports as part of a drive to bolster agriculture.