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Tax exception: Policy won’t encourage local rice cultivation – Farmers

The Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) has said the new tax exception for rice imports will not encourage local cultivation.

NAN reports that the Federal Government recently announced the suspension of duties, tariffs, and taxes on some essential food items imported through land and sea borders.

The listed food items, which include maize, wheat, husked brown rice, and cowpeas, will enjoy a 150-day Duty-Free Import Window.

The Lagos State Chairman, RIFAN Mr Raphael Hunsa, noted that the policy, is not beneficial to local rice cultivation.

“The import duties exception the government has granted for rice imports will greatly affect local rice production.

“This will license and give opportunities to businessmen to import their rice free-of-charge. This development is not encouraging to local rice farmers at all, it is not beneficial to us.

“This means the government is encouraging more rice imports at the detriment of our local rice.

“What we are asking the government to do, is to empower local rice farmers, so that the country will move forward,” Hunsa said.

The RIFAN chairman, however urged the government to empower local rice farmers for increased rice cultivation.

“The countries we are importing from, if their government did not empower their farmers for increased rice production, they will not produce enough to export.

“So, let our government support rice farmers too, and let this support get to the right people, so it will not be a scam.

“We believe some group of persons have confused and advised this government wrongly on this policy.
“Rice farmers are not happy about this policy, we are disadvantaged by it. We were not considered in this policy formulation,” the RIFAN chairman said.
On his part, Mr Temitayo Abdulhakeem, a rice dealer at Iddo, said currently the policy has no effect on the price of the produce.
“We do not know yet how this new policy on tax exception for rice imports will affect price of the produce.
“Rice imports into the country is still coming in through the smuggling routes.
“If you go to any of the sea ports in Lagos state for example, you will not see any rice imports coming in through the ports.
“With this new policy, we will see how the rice imports goes, since the policy just began.
“Presently, this tax exception will have no effect on the price of rice in local markets. There is a new policy every other day.
“We are waiting to see rice pass through our ports free-of-charge, we are waiting for the policy,” Abdulhakeem said.
An agriculture communication expert, Dr Ismail Olawale, described the policy as elitist.

“This policy seems like an elitist policy. It will benefit wealthy businessmen who have enough money to import rice.

“These businessmen have the ear of the government more than local farmers who need to be heard.

“The local farmers hardly get the attention of the government when it comes to policy formulation. There is a lot of internal politics, hindering the cultivation of local rice,” Olawale said. (NAN)

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