The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, on Thursday blamed the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for the billions of naira the country was losing as a result of the Federal Government’s 100 per cent tariff regime on the importation of rice.
A motion before the House of Representatives had indicated that Nigeria had been recording revenue losses since 2012 as rice importers reportedly subverted the government’s policy by smuggling the produce into the country through the land borders.
The tariff hike was to discourage importation and encourage local production of rice by indigenous farmers.
However, the motion observed that importers were subverting the policy by engaging in massive smuggling.
The House had resolved that its Committee on Customs and Excise should investigate the issue with a possibility of proposing a review of the policy.
But at a public hearing by the committee in Abuja on Thursday, the minister argued that if the NCS did its job, smugglers would not be having a free reign.
He said, “The NCS must do its job of policing the borders, while my job is to encourage local farming of rice. The rice that is being smuggled is not carried on the head or brought in by ghosts. The rice comes in trailers and in large quantities.
“Our target is that we should have a enough rice to feed our people and ultimately become a net exporter of rice.”
Adesina advised against placing emphasis on revenue loss by the customs and losing sight of the “real intentions of the policy, which is to promote growth, create job opportunities and reduce poverty.”
Giving a breakdown of the impact of the policy, he recalled that in 2012, the country was producing only 1.4 million metric tonnes of paddy rice.
But, with the policy in place, he said paddy rice production rose to 2.9 million metric tonnes in 2013.