FG Suspends Food Imports Duty, Partners with States on Farming

The Federal Government announced a 150-day duty-free import window for food commodities on Monday, as part of its efforts to combat rising inflation that has significantly impacted Nigerians. This measure includes suspending duties, tariffs, and taxes on certain food imports through land and sea borders.

The initiative aims to reduce the demand for foreign exchange by food importers, who spent $2.13 billion on food imports in 2023, despite Nigeria’s potential as the food basket of Africa. The high food import bill remains a concern for the government, which has struggled with inadequate infrastructure, insecurity, and climate change affecting local agricultural production.

Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Abubakar Kyari, detailed the initiative under the Presidential Accelerated Stabilisation and Advancement Plan. The plan includes the Federal Government importing 250,000 metric tonnes of wheat and 250,000MT of maize to support small-scale processors and millers across the country.

The 150-day duty-free import window covers commodities such as maize, husked brown rice, wheat, and cowpeas. Kyari assured that the imported commodities would meet safety standards and be sold at a Recommended Retail Price to address food inflation.

The government has also committed to expanding land cultivation through collaboration with state governments, identifying irrigable lands, and increasing the area under cultivation. This partnership aims to boost agricultural production and address food security challenges.

Kyari highlighted the urgency of addressing the food affordability crisis, with food inflation indexed at 40.66% according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The removal of petrol subsidies and the floating of the naira in 2023 exacerbated the issue, leading to significant price increases for basic food items.

The government’s measures to tackle food inflation include:

  • A 150-day duty-free import window for specified food commodities.
  • Suspension of duties, tariffs, and taxes on food imports.
  • Federal Government importing wheat and maize to support small-scale processors.
  • Strategic engagement for youth and women in greenhouse cultivation of horticultural crops.
  • Collaboration with the Nigerian Military and other paramilitary establishments for agricultural production.

The National President of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Dele Oye, commended the government’s move to suspend taxes on food imports, emphasizing the importance of protecting local agricultural investments.

Dr. Ikenna Nwosu of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and Segun Kuti-George, National Vice President of the Nigerian Association of Small-Scale Industrialists, also expressed support for the initiative, while emphasizing the need for long-term solutions to boost local agricultural production.

However, Dr. Femi Egbesola, National President of the Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria, cautioned that while the move might arrest food inflation, it could weaken the country’s agricultural sector and lead to job losses in the agriculture value chain. He advocated for a sustainable food model where Nigeria produces and consumes its own food, warning against the health risks of imported genetically modified foods.

The government’s latest directive is a temporary measure to address immediate food shortages, with a focus on boosting local production capabilities to enhance long-term food security.

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