The Rice Millers Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RiMIDAN) has appealed to the federal government to urgently implement the $190 duty per metric tonne of rice to save the businesses of legitimate operators of the rice sector in Nigeria from collapse.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos at the weekend, the Secretary-General of RiMIDAN, Alhaji Shaibu Mohammed, expressed regrets over the current poor handling of the duty process, stressing that not less than 20 vessels carrying rice are stuck in high seas as a result.
He said it was as a result of federal governmentâ€™s breach of the agreement reached with the association in November 2013 that the present inefficiency persists.
According to him, only recently, the federal government through the inter-ministerial committee on dutiable rate held a stakeholders meeting with the dealers in Abuja towards promptly arresting the rate of smuggled rice entering the country through the republic of Benin.
He said that the federal government had called a meeting of stakeholders to address the situation before the last Christmas season, which accounts for the highest point of rice consumption annually. This was with a view to ensure that the Christmas imports were done legally through the Nigerian ports by lowering the Nigerian dutiable price to match that of Benin Republic currently $200.
At the meeting, the Inter-ministerial Committee approved the reduction of the duty from $570 to $190 per metric tonne as a benchmark for imported rice within the stipulated time of two months.
The inter-ministerial committee is composed of the presidential committee on trade malpractices, customs and ministry of agriculture.
The association has however expressed regret that the new dutiable price for legally imported rice has not yet been implemented by the government, lamenting that before now almost all the agreements reached by the committee concerning duty and benchmark were always implemented immediately.
`The new dutiable for legal import was not implemented by government, even though it would have saved the industry and boosted the FG revenue by N50 billion,â€™â€™ Shaibu said.
He said they were so shocked that after the federal government gave the go ahead to bring in rice, most of their members swung into action and ordered rice that is now stuck in the high seas of the nationâ€™s territorial waters.
“The waiting game has been on for over two months because certain government agencies are yet to receive some directives.”
He appealed to the national assembly and the president to save the from the colossal loss adding that the Benin Republic parliament had since passed a motion, which drastically reduced duty on rice, which has further made it easier for smugglers to smuggle rice into Nigeria.
He noted that the inaction of government to quickly implement the dutiable rate of $190 had increased the spate of rice smuggling into Nigeria.
The association noted that last year alone, about three million tonnes of parboiled rice was smuggled into Nigeria through Benin Republic which has caused a lost of N300 billion and gain of over N200 billion to the neighbouring countries that facilitated the smuggling.
He said that less that 100,000 tonnes of rice was legally imported into Nigeria in 2013.