The President of the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) Ken Ukaoha has said that the combined duty of 110 percent on imported rice as provided in the 2013 budget proposals may be devastating in view of the recent flood disaster and can lead to a 50kg of rice costing N30, 000.
Presenting a paper on 2013 Agriculture budget review and advocacy issues in Abuja, the NANTS President urged the government to review the rice policy which is capable of making the commodity unaffordable to over 70 percent of Nigerians.
"Out of the 5 million metric tons of rice that Nigeria require annually, 2.5MT is produced locally while the remaining 2.5MT is imported. With the flood disaster, it means that there will be shortfall in local production which will trigger more imports to meet the general demand and with the 110 increase in duty, the commodity may become unaffordable to Nigerians," he said.
He regretted that the about N81.41 billion amounting to 1.7 percent of the total budget allocated to agriculture is far below the 10 percent Maputo declaration benchmark that Nigeria signed, adding although there was greater allocations to planting materials and agrochemicals, no consideration was given on the recent flood development.
He said that some of the challenges facing the 2013 budget proposals include the lack of nexus between the annual budget allocations and small holder farmers in the country; over bloated frivolities and repetitive items in the recurrent expenditures such as refreshments and meals, welfare and packages.
He explained that the N570.46k per capita investment in the 2013 agriculture budget is too low compared to International and national standards and cannot meet the MDG 1 target of reducing to half the proportion of people who suffer hunger in 2013.
He urged the government to priorities the distribution of inputs to small holder farmers who produce 80 percent of the total local food production than to political farmers who commercialize the inputs by selling them at cut-throat prices.