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Rice importers owe FG N36.5 billion in unpaid duties, says Agric Minister

Guardian - January 13, 2015

“There is N36.56 billion owed to Government by foreign importers of rice (and a few local ones) who wish to run their own rice policy,” says Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Adesina told media executives in Lagos on Tuesday that contrary to speculations in a section of the media, “there is no N40 billion missing, rather, there is N36.56 billion owed to Government…”.
He said that the Federal Government’s policy of encouraging local production of rice, with a view to attaining self-sufficiency in the sector, was giving sleepless nights to those determined to undermine the policy.
Adesina noted that now that Nigerians have become major investors in the local rice sector, “the fear of competition….and their unwillingness to pay to the treasury billions of Naira is what is driving a devious media campaign against the rice quota allocation”.
He said that to encourage investment in local rice production and milling, the Presidency approved an import duty differential on rice (brown or polished) imported by rice investors, compared to rice traders.
“Investors that have milling capacity with verified Domestic Rice Production Plans (DRPP) enjoy an import duty of 10 per cent and levy 20 per cent, while traders will pay an import duty of 10 per cent and levy 60 per cent.
“The new rice policy also stated that importation of brown or polished rice should be limited to the national supply gap for import-grade rice to be determined by an inter-ministerial committee.
“Without waiting for the determination of supply gap by the inter-ministerial committees or issuance of quotas, two Asian companies—Popular Farms and Mills, owned by Stallion Group; and Olam, had imported 390,145.53MT and 244,126.63MT respectively, of polished rice as at December 3, 2014, at the preferential duty of 10 per cent and levy 20 per cent” .
According to the minister, Popular Farm and Mills imported 390,143MT, instead of the 89,939 approved quota and hence, liable to pay N2.2 billion as tariff on approved quota, and N17.2 billion as tariff on excess import, bringing its total indebtedness to Nigeria to N19.37 billion.
He said that on the other hand, Olam imported 244,126MT as against the 133,963 approved for it, thereby owing Nigeria N9.03 million as duty payable on both approved quota and excess import.
Adesina said that three other importers would also have to pay about N8 billion to the Federal Government on the same issues, bringing the total to N36.56 billion.
The minister said, “The national supply gap of import grade rice is expected to decline to one million MT in 2015, 0.3MT in 2016 and to zero in 2017 when the country is expected to become self-reliant in rice production.”
According to the minister, it has been discovered that some of the rice importers are bagging rice produced in Nigeria, passing them as foreign, because the nation has succeeded in bridging the quality gap with good quality seedlings and adequate processing plants.
Adesina said that the government’s effort in making rice and other food stuffs available locally had prevented the country from experiencing high inflation, and that the move was being applauded by foreign governments and international organizations. (NAN)




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