Govt loses N1.7bn monthly to rice smugglers – rice millers

By LAZARUS IBEABUCHI
LAGOS: Local Rice producers have raised an alarm that the Nigerian government risk losing over N1.7 billion worth of revenue every month to smuggling activities in the sector.
The rice producers, under the aegis of Rice Millers, Importers & Distributors Association of Nigeria, RIMIDAN, also called on the government to ensure a level playing field in the sector and remove waivers.
To commiserate with the recent flood victims in the country, the association donated N50 million worth of Rice through the National Emergency Management Agency.
Addressing newsmen in Lagos, Tunji Owoeye, Chairman of the Association said, “Rice occupies an important place being the staple food of Nigerians. According to government statistics, yearly consumption of rice is about 5.5million tonnes. It is also a known fact that local production accounts for about 1.8million tonnes, thus necessitating the need for importation to bridge the gap.
 “Unfortunately, 50 per cent of these imports are smuggled into the country. This is why the nation cringes under the effect of any negative or adverse development that affects the agricultural sector. We complained severally in the recent past about the activities of smugglers of rice and its devastating effect on the Nigerian economy.
“From records available to us, the total loss of revenue to the government from this unwholesome activity for the period commencing January 2012 till date is overTwo Hundred Million Dollars ( N32 Billion Naira).
“We also worked out the simple summation: 30,000 Metric Tonnes every month as smuggled commodity means that the Nigerian government would be losing over 1.7 Billion Naira worth of revenue every month. This is in addition to the problems it is causing for the local development initiatives of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“The truth is that the unscrupulous persons behind this unwholesome business are not only unrelenting, but are daily intensifying and refining their activities thereby undermining government’s policies and programmes directed at boosting local food production.
He said that the problem of smuggling is much more serious than many people appreciate, adding that it is something which is greatly affecting the food security plans of the Federal Government as well as the economic agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.
“By their actions, these smugglers also threaten the means of livelihood of genuine investors in the rice business, denying the government of tax due them. Smugglers ofcourse do not pay tax, so they milk the genuine processors and millers the same way they exploit the government and the economy,” he said.
On the donation of rice to flood victims, he said that RiMIDAN has decided to partner with the Federal Government and various levels of government currently grappling with the effects of the recent flooding across the country. “To this end, RiMIDAN as a body has just donated N50million worth of rice as the first in a series of efforts on our part to ameliorate the sufferings of the flood victims,

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