The Rice Millers, Importers, Distributors Association of Nigeria (RiMIDAN), has again cried out over the massive smuggling activities that threaten to wipe off the modest efforts of stakeholders in the subsector. RiMIDAN’s Secretary General, Shaibu Mohammed, in a statement said that unless the Federal Government intervenes quickly, all the rice consumed in the country in the next few months would be smuggled from across the border with the attendant dire consequences to the economy.
RiMIDAN, which boasts a membership of most of the major farmers, millers and genuine importers are worried over a dire situation that has already put many of their members out of business, put their backward integration efforts in jeopardy and cost government huge revenue loss.
According to Mohammed, government jerked up the rice levy paid by importers thus bringing total tariff to 110 per cent whereas duty paid on rice in the neighbouring countries is merely 30 per cent. “The result is that smugglers are having a field day smuggling rice through Benin Republic into Nigeria,” Mohammed said even as he challenged the federal government to run a check on the quantity of rice that has come into Nigeria so far this year through its seaports compared to previous years.”
They should also find out from the records of the customs, how much duty has accrued from rice imports through the ports this year,” he said. He claimed that Nigeria has lost about $1 billion this year alone in duties as a result of massive smuggling.
“But the bigger worry is that the genuine businessmen who import through the Nigerian ports are in danger of being ruined unless they join the bandwagon of smuggling, which ironically is very lucrative.
And there is another danger of the new rice farms cultivated by many of RiMIDAN members being wasted as the cost of paddy rice (unmilled rice) is far more than the smuggled one. If this trend of smuggling continues, most of the farmers may have to abandon their farms because it will not make sense to continue,” he said.
Muhammed appealed to the federal government to assist the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to check smuggling, as well as partner with key rice stakeholders like RiMIDAN to achieve the objective developing the Nigerian rice sector and ending importation of the staple food.
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