Fed Govt bans importation of rice through land borders

Importation of rice through land borders has been banned by the Federal Government.

“All imported rice must come through the sea ports with duty paid on them, according to the law”, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Wale Adeniji.

The decision to stop the importation of rice through the land borders is expected to end the massive smuggling of rice, which the NCS said has cost the country N27 billion since January.

Importation of rice through the borders has been threatening to throw the government’s plan for local rice production into jeopardy, the NCS said, adding that local growers of rice and lawful importers have hailed the decision.

Acknowledging this decision as proper and timely in a statement yesterday, the Patriotic Rice Association of Nigeria (PRAN) said nothing short of the closure of the borders against smugglers would save Nigeria’s budding rice industry.

The PRAN leaders, Alhaji Habibu Maishinkafa and Martins Okereke, said the higher tariff and consequent high market prices encouraged smugglers to push large volumes of rice into Nigeria with zero duty, thereby unsettling the government’s efforts to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production by 2015.

They decried the situation in which “large-scale investments made into the farming and milling industries by private businesses are also in jeopardy, following Customs’ inability to protect the industry from the vagaries of smugglers.”

In his statement at the weekend, the Customs spokesman announced that the NCS has impounded 35,194 bags of rice estimated to cost about N217 million in the last two months.

PRAN last week alleged the that many vessels with cargoes totaling more than 220,000 metric tonnes of Indian and Thai origins have flooded the ports of Benin and Cameroun in order to eventually find their way to Nigeria through the borders. Vessels from India involving 90,000 metric tonnes to Benin include MV Lord Curzon, MV Santa Barbara, MV Zeynupkiran, MV Emenates and MV Captain.

“Vessels from Thailand with cargoes of more than 130,000 metric tonnes are shipped to Benin on vessels MV White Fin, MV Makra, MV Blanco Zealand and others. Many container loads totaling over 150,000 tonnes since the start of 2013 have also started penetrating through the borders through Benin, Niger Republic, borders. More than eight million bags of rice have flooded all markets including Alaba, Daleko, Ideo, Singer and others nationwide”.

PRAN said the recent decision banning smuggled rice by the NCS should be supported by the Customs rank-and-file and by the entire citizens because it is “a patriotic measure”.

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