Rice imports technically banned as traded goods in Nigerian ports

The Federal Government has finally succeeded in putting an end to the importation of traded rice into the country, BusinessDay has learnt.

Consequently, Nigerians now consumes rice produced in-country by local rice millers such as Olam, Stallion and other local rice millers, in line with the objectives of the nation’s rice policy. It also means that any foreign parboiled rice found in Nigerian market today, was smuggled through the land borders.

BusinessDay understands that men of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), especially Apapa Area command, which has rice import as one of its major revenue earning commodities, has confirmed that no single vessel of traded rice has ever berthed in Apapa port in the last 18 months, January 2017 to June 2018.

Recall that the Federal Government had during the last administration put in place a 110 percent import duty and levy on rice to discourage heavy importation of rice that was taking place at that time. The policy generated several economic difficulties such that government was forced to reduce the tariff regime to 70 percent for importers and 20 percent for rice millers.

Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2015 listed rice among the 41 items restricted from accessing foreign exchange from the Nigeria’s official foreign exchange market. By implication, importers desirous of importing rice had to source for foreign exchange from alternative markets.

Joseph Attah, Customs national public relations officer had in January 2018, disclosed to newsmen that the government will no longer issue Form ‘M’ to importers for importation of rice.

Confirming this, Jubrin Musa, Area Controller Apapa command, told members of the Shipping Correspondents Association of Nigeria, who paid courtesy visit on him at the command in Lagos last week, that the command has not recorded any revenue on imported rice through the port since 2017.

“Form M issuance is not within the purview of Customs. 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. From last year till date, no importation of rice has passed through Apapa and we have not seen any Form M on rice but the reason, we do not know,” he said.

Jubrin said that despite the zero duty recorded on rice, the command has not fared badly in its revenue generation as it has adopted various measures to up its revenue. He added that since the launch of the Nigeria Customs Integrated Information System (NICIS 11), an automated platform, the command’s revenue has been on the increase.

According to him, the command collected N28 billion in April; N33 billion in May and N30 billion as at June 28th.

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