The Federal Government wants to discourage rice importation.
The spokesperson of the Seaport Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN) on Friday urged the Federal Government to review the policy on rice importation in the interest of the nation’s economy.
Mr. Akinola made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
He said that Nigeria was losing an average of N1billion daily to the subsisting policy on rice importation and the attendant high level smuggling of the commodity into the country.
“Before January 2013, rice importers paid a 60 per cent duty, but when it was increased to 110 per cent, importers shun Nigerian ports for neighbouring countries.
“No rice vessel has berthed at any port in Nigeria in close to a year now. What that means is that government is losing revenue that the Customs should have collected.
“The vessels just go to neigbouring ports where they will pay far less duty and the smugglers end up bringing the same rice into the country illegally,” he said.
He said that the policy has affected the revenue of the Apapa Command of the Nigeria Customs Service from rice import.
Mr. Akinola said the Command had so far collected only N11 million as duty on rice as against what it used to be.
“The Area Controller of Apapa Customs said that rice was the highest revenue-earner for them, but this year, the Command collected only N11 million as import duty on rice.
“In 2012 and 2011 about N138 billion and N135 billion respectively was collected as revenue on rice importation. You can see the monumental loss to the Nigerian government,” Mr. Akinola said.
Mr. Akinola said it was evident that the plan to develop the local production of rice still needed time because during this yuletide Nigerians ate imported rice and not locally-produced ones.
“During this celebration period people ate the same imported rice, not the one grown in Abakaliki or Ofada,” he said.
The Federal Government wants to make Nigeria self sufficient in rice production and has thus put in place policies to discourage importation. Statistics from the Agriculture Ministry indicate that Nigeria currently produces about half of the amount of rice consumed annually in the country.
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