The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, in Abuja on Thursday said the Federal Government would establish rice levy fund to support local rice production.
Adesina made this known at a public hearing on the Federal Government new rice tariff regime organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Customs and Excise.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government increased levy on rice from 20 per cent to 100 per cent to encourage local production and help boost investors’ confidence in local rice production.
The minister said the fund would be established from the proceeds generated from the new tariff on imported rice.
He said Nigeria had the capacity to be the sole importer of rice to other countries if local production of rice was enhanced.
Adesina noted that the continued importation of rice into the country had contributed to the high unemployment among Nigerians.
He alleged that some unscrupulous Nigerians were conniving with importers of rice to frustrate the implementation of the new policy on rice.
The minister maintained that the new rice tariff regime was the best for the country as it would encourage and enhance local production of rice.
“The policy is working, I believe our rice policy is working well,” he said.
He alleged that some importers of rice buy the local rice which they label and sell to consumers as imported rice.
Adesina called for stiffer penalties for illegal importers of frozen fish and chicken, which he said, were harmful to the health of Nigerians.
“We owe it a duty to our country to make sure that these people are sent to jail,” he said.
He called on the National Assembly to support the ministry with legislation that would enhance its operations.
Adesina alleged that the Nigeria Customs Service under-reported the data of imported rice into the country from 2009 to 2011.
According to him, 8,000 bags of rice are smuggled into the country every day through waterways between Nigeria and Benin.
Comptroller-General of Customs Abdullahi Dikko said 2. 9 million tonnes of rice were imported into the country in 2011 and not 342,000 tonnes as claimed by the minister.
Dikko said that a memo requesting for the procurement of tracking devices to check activities of smugglers was before him.
He attributed the success of smugglers to the connivance of local boarder communities who assisted them.
Dikko said the service was collaborating with such communities to check activities of smugglers.
He called on the Federal Government to put in place an effective sanction for smugglers of rice into the country.
The customs boss also identified the low tariff on rice in neighboring countries as one of the major factors contributing to smuggling of rice into the country.