FG Opts for Duty-Free Imports of Rice, Wheat, Beans, and More

FG Opts for Duty-Free Imports of Rice, Wheat, Beans, and More
FG Opts for Duty-Free Imports of Rice, Wheat, Beans, and More 

ABUJA—The Federal Government plans to suspend duties, tariffs, and taxes on certain essential food items imported through land and sea borders.

Vanguard learned yesterday that this decision aims to reduce the soaring cost of food items, which has made life difficult for many Nigerians.

In response, the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and the Centre for Promotion of Private Enterprises (CPPE) praised the government's decision, noting its potential positive impact on inflation.

A source revealed that the listed food items, including maize, wheat, husked brown rice, and cowpeas, would benefit from a 150-day duty-free import window.

The source acknowledged that food prices have significantly increased across the country in recent months, exacerbating the hardship for many people. “The affordability crisis in our food security system has been highlighted by data from the National Bureau of Statistics, which recently reported food inflation at 40.66%.

“We have heard the cries of Nigerians over the high prices of food items and condiments, with some now referring to tomatoes as gold and suggesting various recipes to cope with the expensive food items.

“Items that were once considered common, such as yam, plantain, and potato, now command excessively high prices, and Nigerians are right to wonder why things are the way they are.

“As a government, under the leadership of President Bola Tinubu, members of the Federal Executive Council, and all other operatives in the MDAs are fully aware of the hardship caused by the high cost of food items in our country,” the source said.

The source further explained that food inflation results from several factors, including disruptions in agricultural production in some parts of the country, which have hindered smallholder farmers from contributing optimally to the nation’s food supply.

“This has shifted the food challenge from affordability to availability. Earlier this year, the Federal Government implemented several interventions to make food available and reduce prices.

“These interventions included the release of 42,000MT of assorted food commodities from the National Strategic Food Reserve, the purchase of 58,500MT of milled rice from the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria, and an additional 30,000MT of rice.

“Despite these efforts, prices have continued to rise, and in some cases, food items are becoming scarce. The government cannot allow this situation to persist. While there are ongoing agricultural initiatives and projects under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and state governments also have their programs, we must address the immediate availability crisis.

“As the government continues to encourage sustainable and profitable agricultural production, the time lag between cultivation and harvest makes it necessary to implement stop-gap measures to provide relief to Nigerians.

“For instance, the harvest for the 2024 wet season farming will not be due until October-November. While these measures aim to alleviate immediate food shortages, we will also strengthen domestic production capabilities to enhance long-term food security.”

Vanguard also learned that the increasing cost of food items prompted President Tinubu to establish the Presidential Economic Coordination Council (PECC) in March 2024. The Economic Management Team (EMT) recently presented an Accelerated Stabilization and Advancement Plan to the President.

Sources indicated that a N2 trillion package was recently approved to support the Accelerated Stabilization and Advancement Plan, with agriculture as a key focus sector. “The EMT has been working tirelessly to develop the best strategies to achieve the best results for Nigerians.

“To address food inflation caused by affordability and availability issues, the government has implemented several measures to be carried out over the next 180 days. These include a 150-day duty-free import window for food commodities and the suspension of duties, tariffs, and taxes for importing certain food commodities through land and sea borders.

“These commodities include maize, husked brown rice, wheat, and cowpeas. Under this arrangement, imported food commodities will be subject to a Recommended Retail Price (RRP).

“I understand that some citizens may be concerned about the quality of the imported food commodities, particularly regarding their genetic composition. I assure you that the government’s standards will not compromise the safety of these food items for consumption.

“In addition to private sector imports, the Federal Government will import 250,000MT of wheat and 250,000MT of maize. These semi-processed food commodities will be supplied to small-scale processors and millers across the country.

“We will engage relevant stakeholders to set a Guaranteed Minimum Price (GMP) and mop up surplus assorted food commodities to restock the National Strategic Food Reserve. We will also continue to ramp up production for the 2024/2025 farming cycle and provide sustained support to smallholder farmers during the ongoing wet season farming through existing government initiatives.

“We will strengthen and accelerate dry season farming across the country, embark on aggressive agricultural mechanization and development to reduce drudgery, lower production costs, and boost productivity. We will collaborate with sub-national governments to identify irrigable lands and increase land under cultivation.

“We will work closely with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation to rehabilitate and maintain irrigation facilities under river basin authorities across the federation. We will also develop a strategic engagement for youth and women across the federation for immediate greenhouse cultivation of horticultural crops, such as tomatoes and peppers, to increase production volume, stabilize prices, and address food shortages.

“We will fast-track ongoing engagements with the military to rapidly cultivate arable lands under the Defence Farms Scheme while encouraging other paramilitary establishments to put secured available arable lands to cultivation.

“The Renewed Hope National Livestock Transformation Implementation Committee will be inaugurated on Tuesday, July 9, 2024, to develop and implement policies that prioritize livestock development and ensure alignment with the National Livestock Transformation Plan.

“We will enhance nutrition security by promoting the production of fortified food commodities and offering necessary support to scale up the Home Garden Initiative by the Office of The First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Over the next 14 days, in close collaboration with the Presidential Food Systems Coordinating Unit (PFSCU) and the Economic Management Team (EMT), we will convene with the respective agencies to finalize the implementation frameworks.

“We will ensure that information is publicly available to facilitate the participation of all relevant stakeholders across the country. The PFSCU will manage a dashboard for Mr. President, providing him with direct visibility into these interventions and ensuring accountability.

“The success of these measures depends on the cooperation and collaboration of all stakeholders.”

Suleiman Inuwa

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