The Rice Millers, Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria has appealed to the Federal Government to urgently implement the $190 duty on each metric tonne of imported rice.
The Secretary General of RiMIDAM, Alhaji Shaibu Mohammed, said over 20 vessels of rice were stocked on the high seas as a result of the Federal Government’s breach of the agreement reached with the association in Abuja in November 2013.
The Federal Government had recently, through the inter-ministerial committee on dutiable rate, held a stakeholders’ meeting with the dealers in Abuja, with the aim of ending the rising cases of smuggled rice through the Republic of Benin into the country.
Mohammed said the Federal Government called a meeting of stakeholders to address the situation before the last Christmas, with a view of ensuring that the Christmas imports were done legally through the Nigerian ports.
He said the Nigerian dutiable price was then lowered to match Benin dutiable price of $200.
“The new dutiable term for legal import was not implemented by the government, even though it would have saved the industry and boosted FG’s revenue by N50bn,” he said.
He said that at the meeting, the inter-ministerial committee approved the reduction of duty from $570 to $190 per metric ton as a benchmark for imported rice within the stipulated time of two months, adding that the committee was composed of the presidential committee on trade malpractices, customs and ministry of agriculture.
According to him, the association has, however, expressed regret that the new dutiable price for legally imported rice has yet to be implemented by the government.
He said, “Before now, almost all the agreements reached by the committee concerning duty and benchmark were always implemented immediately. We are so shocked that after the Federal Government gave the go-ahead to bring in rice, most of our members swung into action and ordered rice that is now stuck on the high seas of the nation’s territorial waters.
“The waiting game has been on for over two months because certain government agencies have yet to receive some directives. We appeal to the National Assembly and the President, who is a listening leader, to save us from this colossal loss.”
The association stated that the Benin Republic parliament had since passed a motion, which drastically reduced the duty on rice and this had further made it easier for smugglers to bring rice into Nigeria, making it difficult to import rice especially at the dutiable rate of $570.
They stated that the inaction of the government to quickly implement the dutiable rate of $190 has worsened the case of smuggling of rice into the country.
RiMIDAN also alleged that the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had refused to implement the approved $190 dutiable levy and appealed to the National Assembly to hasten action in order to restore confidence in the sector.
“Because of the willingness of Benin Republic to facilitate an easy conduit for smuggled rice into Nigeria and the obvious inaction of the Nigerian government, smuggling of rice has resumed full scale into Nigeria,” the association said.
It alleged that this development in 2013 alone, led to the loss of over N300bn in Federal Government revenue on duties and levies and a gain of over N200bn to Benin Republic for facilitating smuggling.
Mohammed said that less that 100,000 tonnes of rice was legally imported into Nigeria in 2013.
He added that the association recently wrote a letter to the Minister of Finance, seeking audience for a discussion on how to improve the nation’s rice value chain.