… As Nigeria slams restriction
Foreign rice imports by neighbouring Benin Republic, Niger and Cameroon from Thailand has increased sporadically while import to Nigeria decreases, LEADERSHIP investigation has shown.
Analysts have argued that the sharp increase was fuelled by the federal government’s policy on imported rice in Nigeria which restricts rice importers from accessing the official foreign exchange (forex) market.
This policy implies that those who import items under foreign exchange restriction can no longer buy foreign currency from the official window to pay the overseas suppliers. Rather, they would have to source forex from the parallel market or bureau de change (BDCs) to pay for their imports.
But, the policy has cut down rice imports into Nigeria drastically that Nigeria had not received vessel of traded rice since 2017.
Also, the 10 per cent import duty with 60 per cent levy and Benin Republic crashing its own tariff from 35 per cent to a paltry seven per cent, while Cameroon introduced a zero per cent duty policy on the commodity, down from 10 per cent is fueling smuggling of parboiled rice into Nigeria.
In the entire West African region, only Nigerians eat parboiled rice. Benin Republic with a population of 8.02 million and Togo’s 7.06 million people cannot consume the massive rice imported to their countries.
According to data from the Thai Rice Exporters Association, rice imports from Thailand to Benin Republic rose from 805,765 MT in 2015, when Nigeria introduced the policy to 1,427,098 metric tonnes (MT) in 2016.
It further rose to 1,814,014MT in 2017, importation from January to May 2018 has risen to 625,863 MT in first five months of the year.
Cameroon also experienced an upsurge in importation from 449,297 MT in 2015 to 502,254 MT in 2016, and 749,008 MT in 2017. The tiny central African country bordering Nigeria has recorded 185,707 MT of imported rice from Thailand from January to May 2018.
On the other hand, the importation of foreign parboiled rice by Togo increased from 54,086 MT in 2016 to 132,978MT in 2017 and currently stood at 100,996 as at May 2018.
Ironically, while the rice vessels call to Nigerian ports have continue to decrease, neighbouring countries continue to experience increase in vessels.
Statistics showed that importation of parboiled rice into Nigeria decreased from 1,239,810 MT in 2014 to 644,131 MT in 2015. It further decreased to 58,260 MT in 2016 to 23,192 MT in 2017, and January to May statistics showed that Nigeria has imported a paltry 2,351MT in 2018.
Corroborating the Thai Rice Exporters Association, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said since 2017, Nigeria has not received traded rice in Apapa ports.
Speaking when members of the Shipping Correspondents Association of Nigeria (SCAN) paid him a courtesy visit at the command in Lagos recently, the controller of the command, Comptroller Jubril Musa, disclosed that the CBN has not issued Form M to any rice importer.
The Customs CAC said no single vessel of traded rice berthed in Apapa ports in the last two years. Consequently, the command, he said, has not recorded any revenue on imported rice through the ports within the reviewed period.
He said, “Form M issuance is not within the purview of the Nigeria Customs Service. It is a document that is sourced from CBN. If we see any consignment that has form M, we treat. All goods imported that are for commercial activities must have form M whether valid for foreign exchange or not valid. CBN does that and we only treat when we see but throughout last year to date, no importation of rice has passed through Apapa. So we have not collected any duty on rice through the port.”
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