The Federal Government has set a new benchmark price for all types of imported rice at 673 dollars per tonne for the fourth quarter of 2012, beginning from October.
A statement posted on the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) website said the directive was issued in a circular signed by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
It quoted the minister as saying that the benchmark price for all consignments of rice during the quarter be fixed at 613 dollars for the Free on Board (FOB) price and a freight charge of 60 dollars.
This brings the total price of each tonne of rice imported into the country to 673 dollars.
The circular further stated that the price was arrived at based on the advice of an Inter-Ministerial Committee.
The committee comprised the Presidential Committee on Trade Malpractices (PCTM), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and NCS.
Others are the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, Budget Office of the Federation and Rice Millers, Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RIMIDAN).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Federal Government reviews quarterly the benchmark price of all types of imported rice.
The import duty is calculated based on this benchmark price regardless of the actual FOB price.
The per metric tonne benchmark price was fixed at 699 dollars for the 2nd and 3rd quarters but dropped to 673 dollars since October.
In an interview with NAN, Dr Abdulwahab Tijjani, Chairman of the North-East Chapter of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) said continued rice importation was discouraging local production.
He told NAN through a phone conversation that local rice farmers were unable to produce enough due to the lack of credit facilities and low investments in the sector.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, had said that plans were on to replace imported rice with locally produced rice.
Adesina, during the recent launch of cassava bread in Abuja, announced that there would be an absolute ban on rice importation by 2015.
He explained that the Federal Government had initiated a programme of producing hybrid rice, saying that current rising statistics on rice importation did not seem to help improve on this.
He suggested an immediate strategic approach to raise rice yield to help the country meets its rice needs in the next 35 years.
NAN reports that since July this year, the federal government imposed a 30 per cent levy on imported brown rice and a 50 per cent levy on imported polished rice.
An expected final levy increase of 100 per cent for rice import will come into effect on Dec. 31. (NAN)