The Federal Government has slashed import duty payable on rice in what government sources explained as necessitated by the need to discourage smuggling and under- cutting.
The new rate of duty according to Shipping Position Weekly sources is $683 per tonne, down from about $800 and it is already been collected at the various entry points and including borders and sea ports.
Our source also confirmed that the new duty was recommended by the federal government’s special committee on trade malpractices. It was discovered that some unscrupulous importers were under cutting their competitors and also denying the government of accruable revenue, hence the decision to review the benchmark.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest importer of rice, importing an average of about 500,000 metric tonnes annually.
Shipping Position Weekly confirmed that worst hit in the desperate moves by the unscrupulous importers are border commands where smugglers prefer to ferry the products into the country through creeks and waterfronts.
One of such areas is the Seme border where it was discovered that many bags were smuggled through the bush parts into adjoining villages, form where they find their ways to vehicles and the markets.
Our source was told that the smugglers have found it more attractive to carry bags in one and two than to pay duty and that this has led to loss of revenue to the government.
Shipping Position Weekly was at the ever-busy Seme border in Lagos where unidentified individuals were actually sighted with one or two bags which they freighted across as ‘personal effects’.
Our source however confirmed that with the reduction in bench mark, no one is even allowed to carry even one bag of rice across the border and that the Customs authourities at the command were serious about enforcing the new law.
But last weekend, the Command’s Area Controller, Mr Sunday Aneke confirmed the reduction of bench mark to our correspondent and disclosed that the development is already having a positive, but slow effect on duty collection on rice.
According to him, some people have actually come forward to pay their duty and that he expects that the trend will continue.