The minister of agriculture and rural development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has said that as the drive to ensure that Nigeria becomes self-sufficient in rice production gains momentum, a new policy has been approved to ensure that rice importers pay a tariff of 10 – 60 per cent.
“The new policy,” according to an end of year report by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development made available to LEADERSHIP, yesterday, “is aimed at discouraging smuggling while leading to a quantum leap in the Backward Integration Programme (BIP),” Adesina said.
He added that the policy has attracted more than $1.6 billion of private sector investments and it is expected that Nigeria will become a net exporter of rice just like Thailand or India within the next three years.
The minister said, “The new policy has an inbuilt tariff/levy differential deliberately skewed in favour of investors with verifiable BIP. These investors are allowed to temporarily import brown or finished rice to bridge the present gap in supply and demand and enjoy 10 per cent tariff and 20 per cent levy. On the other hand, mere rice traders will import at 10 per cent tariff and 60 per cent levy.”
The Nigerian local rice industry was, hitherto, comprised of entirely small-scale mills until 2008 when the first large integrated mill commenced operation.
“By 2010 the small millers were producing about 60 per cent of parboiled milled rice in Nigeria, estimated at about 3-3.5 million metric tonnes with an estimated total consumption of about 5.5 million metric tonnes,” said the minister.
He noted that initially the small mills could not generate products that could match the quality of imported rice because their products were deficient in critical quality attributes, including a lack of uniformity, flavour, odour, high content of broken grains, presence of stones and other extraneous materials, which limited consumer acceptance of locally processed rice.
However, the situation, he emphasised, has changed as clusters of small mills have acquired destoners and polishers, and have greatly improved the quality of their product.
Speaking on the rice productions trends in Nigerian, Adesina said, “Nigeria rice sector had struggled to keep pace with post-civil war rising demands and driven by the oil boom of the early 1970s, the doors were left open for free import of rice. There was a positive reversal of the negative rice productions trends.”
He added that Nigerian farmers have shown positive responsiveness to favourable government policy initiated by the current administration.