Against the backdrop of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s policy of zero allocation of dollars for the importation of 41 items, including rice; import of rice from Thailand to Nigeria dropped from 1.23 million metric tonnes in 2014 to 23,192 metric tonnes as at November 2017. According to data on the Thai Rice Exporters Association website, the value of these exports also dropped to 324 million Thai baht (from 8.2 billion Thai bhat).
Curiously though, Nigeria’s neighbours, Republic of Benin, recorded an astronomical increase in rice imports from Thailand, from 805,765 metric tonnes in 2015 to 1,647,387 million metric tonnes as at November 2017 — leading to suspicion that the drop in Nigeria’s import may not have to do with the claim by the Federal Government that the country now produces enough rice for domestic consumption, but the zero dollar allocation that has placed the burden of sourcing foreign exchange for the importation of the effected 41 items on the importer.
Though no government official could confirm, Sunday Telegraph notes that the staple may have been smuggled to Nigeria through land borders. The Comptroller General of Customs, Hammid Ali (rtd) had in 2006 announced a ban on the importation of rice from the nation’s land border, even as government has also disclosed that it would further place the staple on import prohibition list this year.
He argued that the move would encourage patronage of locally made goods, but it led to immediate increase in the price of the staple. “I have directed a zero-tolerance to rice imports through the land borders irrespective of volume with immediate effect. Importers who have already initiated import processes will have a grace period ending Friday March 25, 2016 to clear their consignments,” Hameed Alli, said in 2016.
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) had last week told journalist in Lagos that in line with a directive given by President Muhammdu Buhari, it has donated a total of 421 trailer loads of rice totaling 252,666 units of 50kg bags valued at N3, 789,990,000 in the last 22 months to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in four states of the country.
This was announced by NCS in Lagos at a media briefing by its Spokesman, Mr. Joseph Attah, on the activities of the agency in the year 2017. Attah, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs, disclosed that the sustained customs anti smuggling efforts have kept customs warehouses filled with seizures despite the various donations made by the agency to the IDPs
He said: ‘’Despite tonnes of rice and other relief items already transferred to the IDPs, Some NCS warehouses are still filled with rice.
This only shows that the sustained onslaught against unrepentant rice smugglers continues to yield positive results.
‘’The ones in the warehouses now are either awaiting court condemnation or forfeiture to the Federal Government or have been already allocated to governments of the affected states who pay the Army Corp of Transport and Logistics for their transportation to the IDPs ‘’Eventually , the seized rice and other perishable items presently in the warehouses will be given to fellow Nigerians affected by the unfortunate insurgency in the North -East.”