The new official policy would be announced soon.
Confusion trails the Federal Government’s policy on rice importation as two ministers express divergent views on the current policy.
About 48 hours after the Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, announced the federal government’s decision to reduce import tariff on rice, and thus encourage legal importation, the Agriculture Minister, Akinwunmi Adesina, said the federal government is still determined to reduce importation of the product.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said on Wednesday in Abuja that government was contemplating on reducing the tariff on rice importation to help reduce smuggling of the commodity into the country.
The minister was fielding questions during the maiden edition of ‘Budget 2014 Jam’, a youth online programme initiated by the Finance Ministry to enable the minister answer questions from a cross section of Nigerians youth on the budget.
The minister said that the existing 110 per cent duty on rice importation, recently put in place by the federal government, would have to be reviewed downwards as government has found that it was encouraging smuggling of the commodity into the country.
“We increased the tariff to 110 per cent, and it encouraged some people to go and grow rice, and we grew 1.1 million metric tonnes of the product.
“But, it also encouraged smuggling by neighboring countries, because they immediately dropped their own tariffs to 10 per cent,” Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said.
The finance minister explained that the government had decided to review the import tariff downwards because increased tariff was not working.
“For rice, we decided to bring it (import tariff) down because we see that it (the current 110 per cent import tariff) is not working,” she said.
But, the Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Mr. Adesina, insisted on Friday that the federal government was still determined to discourage and stop rice importation.
“We want to discourage those that bring rice as traders,” he said. “We want those that are going to go in and have commercial farms, produce rice, buy domestic paddy rice and mill it for us.
He said government was looking at the rice tariff policy to discourage importers of rice, while encouraging those going into local production, processing and milling of rice.
“That policy will be released very soon; you will see that we have chosen the path of supporting those that are investing in Nigeria, not those that are going to be bringing rice from outside,” he said.
The minister said that government would not allow any rice importer to create poverty in the country, saying that poverty is not an industry that should be developed.
On dry season farming, Mr. Adesina said that the 2013/2014 programme was currently going on in 24 states of the federation with the aim of producing 2.1 million tons of rice.
He said that the figure was equivalent to 75 per cent of the total rice imported into the country, if it could be milled at international quality standard.
He stated that the 2014 Dry Season Farming Support Programme launched by President Goodluck Jonathan was aimed at making 600,000 farmers to benefit from a N14 billion grant.
The Federal Government, he said, was committed to ensuring that more integrated rice mills were established in the country as local rice is better than the imported brand.
He said he was confident that by 2016 or there about, Nigeria would be self-sufficient in rice production with the amount of local production the country is having today.
Rice is the most consumed staple food by Nigeria’s 160 million people.
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