By Ikenna Asomba
The National Rice Millers Association of Nigeria, NRMAN, has expressed worry over smuggling of rice from across the Nigerian borders which it said has reached prohibitive levels, with hundreds of trailers plying back and forth from neighbouring countries carrying illegal shipments of the staple food.
NRMAN stated that the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, erred in its decision to lift the ban on importation of rice through the land borders. Chairman of the association, Mohammed Abubakar, chided the NCS for allegedly overreaching its statutory mandate as an enforcement agency in taking such a policy decision.
Mr. Abubakar said if the customs succeeded in its decision, it would destroy Nigeria’s rice value chain attained by the previous administration.
He attributed the problem of hamstringing rice investors to the Central Bank of Nigeria ban of foreign exchange for rice imports, among other products, which he noted is choking the importation supply chain.
The nation’s supply gap was estimated at around 3 million tonnes by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and half that number by the FG earlier this year.
It will be recalled that in 2013, the Federal Government increased the importation tariff to 110 per cent as against zero duty regime administered in Benin and Cameroon.
However, legal importers paying full tariff of 70 per cent have not been able to compete with smugglers who enjoy a free ride into the market, aided by negligible tariffs in neighbouring Cameroon and Republic of Benin, taking advantage of porous borders.