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February 08, 2010

Nigeria annually spends $700 million to import rice from Thailand

by Nhozi Sams

Nigeria imports one million tonnes of rice, valued at $700m, from Thailand every year.

This was disclosed by Prasit Damrongshitama, the Chief Executive Officer of Chareon Pokphand, CP, Group of Thailand, who led a team of Thai businessmen on a courtesy visit to the Abuja office of the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC) in January.

He said the investors are in Nigeria to explore possible investment opportunities in the nation's agriculture sector, saying that trade volume between Nigeria and Thailand is now valued at $800million.

He said the group is promoted by Thailand's Board of Investment and is a leader in the premium rice sector in processing and packaging high quality rice for the domestic and overseas markets. The company's rice processing plants according to him are capable of producing 360,000 tonnes a year.

He said Nigeria is the second largest importer of Thai rice in Africa and is qualified for further investment. "Every year Nigeria imports one million metric tonnes of rice from Thailand which is about $700million. We import oil and gas from Nigeria, and last year it was put at $10 million for oil and $20million for gas. The total trade volume between us is $800milion."

Mr. Damrongshitama said the prospects of good economic growth and friendly investment climate necessitated the decision to explore more opportunities for investment in Nigeria, saying the Thai company is considering setting up a seed company in Nigeria to grow rice and maize.

The huge population of Nigeria which is almost two times bigger than Thailand, according to him, is a good bait for any prospective investor. "We want to bring rice to grow in Nigeria. Nigeria's land is good for agriculture like ours. We are good partners and have experience in seed business and looking at potential for tropical seeds production. Nigeria has all it takes," he said.

The team interacted with various agencies of government involved in seed production and sales in a bid to have access relevant information, and get samples of Nigerian soil to know which specie of grains to bring into the country, consider the procedure for acquisition of land and registration processes involved in setting up the company.

The Executive Director of the Nigeria Seed Company, Olasukanmi Sobowale, told the Thai investors that the country is willing to accept their investment proposals and will allow them bring in their grains for the first four years before they can go into full scale local production. "There are facilities in place for you to establish a Nigerian seed company," he said, adding that plans are underway to review the seed law of Nigeria to further protect all forms of investment.

The Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Investment Promotion Council, Mustafa Bello, hinted at the government's plan to adopt sector specific policies to attract investment in all sectors of the economy. This will boost investment since information relevant to every sector will be made available.

He said it is a good idea that the Thai group is not only going to grow maize and rice in Nigeria, but will also conduct integrated agricultural research which will be relevant for other investors in the sector. He said expectations are high that with the full execution of Thai's agenda, prices of grain will be reduced in Nigeria.


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