On Friday, Audu Ogbeh, minister of agriculture, claimed that Thailand has accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s government of being responsible for the collapse of seven of its rice mills.
The minister quoted the Thailand’s ambassador to Nigeria as saying that the federal government has “dealt” with his country.
Ogbeh said this was because Nigeria’s importation of rice has fallen by 95 percent.
Consequently, he said, unemployment rate has risen by four percent in Thailand.
“Just like two weeks ago, the ambassador of Thailand came to my office and said to me that we have really dealt with them,” he said.
“But I asked what did we do wrong and he said unemployment in Thailand was one of the lowest in the world, 1.2 percent, it has gone up to four percent because seven giant rice mills have shut down because Nigeria’s import has fallen by 95 percent on rice alone.”
TheCable fact-checked the claims made by the agriculture minister.
CLAIM ONE: COLLAPSE OF SEVEN RICE MILLS IN THAILAND
TheCable carried out an extensive research and the minister’s claim that seven rice mills collapsed in Thailand owing to Nigeria’s low patronage could not be verified.
Instead, Thailand’s export has continued to grow. According to The Nation Thailand, overall exports in January this year alone rose to 17.6 percent with an income of $20.101 billion.
Significantly, rice exports grew to 37.2 percent year-on-year — an indication that rice mills are not collapsing in Thailand. Instead, rice producers in the country may be needing more mills!
Also, the Rice Exporters Association of Thailand said rice exports reached a record high in 2017.
Charoen Laothammatas, president of the association, said they would be able to export around 9.5 million tons of rice in 2018.
The quantity of rice imported from Thailand into Nigeria is not significant enough to lead to the collapse of any mill in the country.
Information on the association’s website puts Nigeria’s import in 2017 at 23,192 metric tonnes. What Nigeria imported in 2015 and 2016 were 644,131 and 58, 260 metric tonnes respectively.
These figures are less compared to what Benin Republic has imported. The country imported 1,811,164; 1,427,098 and 805,765 metric tonnes of rice in 2017, 2016 and 2015 respectively.
It is even suspected that most Benin imports end up in the Nigerian market through the land border.
CLAIM TWO: UNEMPLOYMENT IN THAILAND HAS RISEN TO FOUR PERCENT
Checks by TheCable found this claim to be false.
Trading Economics puts Thailand’s unemployment rate at 1.3 percent as at January 2018.
“The unemployment rate in Thailand inched up to 1.3 percent in January of 2018 from 1.2 percent in the same month a year earlier,” information on the website read.
“The number of unemployed went up by 26 thousand from the prior year to 475 thousand while the number of employed declined by 142 thousand to 37.07 million.
“In December 2017, the jobless rate was 1 percent. Unemployment Rate in Thailand averaged 1.45 percent from 2001 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 5.73 percent in January of 2001 and a record low of 0.39 percent in November of 2012.”
The claim that seven mills collapsed in Thailand because of Nigeria’s low patronage cannot be verified. The claim that Thailand’s unemployment is at four percent is false.
Maybe the ambassador, as quoted by Ogbeh, was only speaking tongue-in-cheek to show how insignificant Nigerian market is to Thailand — but Ogbeh, eager to celebrate his achievement in office, took a private joke to the public without crosschecking.