Fuel, Food Imports Surge as Nigeria’s Q1 Imports Hit N12.64tn

Refined petroleum products and agricultural food imports dominated Nigeria’s import landscape in the first quarter of 2024, according to a new report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Total imports for Q1 2024 reached N12.64tn, marking a 39.65% increase from N9.05tn in Q4 2023 and a 95.53% rise from N6.47tn in Q1 2023. Raw material imports by manufacturers amounted to N1.5tn, while agricultural goods imports stood at N920.54bn.

The NBS report noted that imports accounted for 39.75% of total trade in Q1 2024, with the value of imports showing significant growth compared to previous quarters. The merchandise trade balance for Q1 2024 was positive at N6.5tn.

China emerged as Nigeria’s top trading partner for imports, contributing 23.18% of the total. Other key import partners included India (8.46%), the United States (7.98%), Belgium (7.56%), and the Netherlands (4.68%).

Agricultural goods imports increased by 29.45% compared to Q4 2023 and by 95.28% compared to Q1 2023. Similarly, raw material imports by manufacturers rose by 51.78% from Q4 2023 and by 164.18% from Q1 2023.

Key imported commodities included motor spirit ordinary, gas oil, durum wheat, cane sugar for refineries, and other liquefied petroleum gases.

The report detailed that mineral fuels topped the import list, valued at N4.436tn and representing 35.09% of total imports. This was followed by machinery and transport equipment (N3.17tn, 25.08%) and chemicals and related products (N1.786tn, 14.13%).

Despite calls from various stakeholders to open borders for food imports to curb inflation, President Bola Tinubu has maintained restrictions, though plans are underway to suspend import duties on staple foods, drugs, and essential items for six months as an inflation-control measure.

Nigeria faces a looming food crisis with food inflation at 40.5%. Prices of staples like rice have surged, with rice prices increasing by 169% in the past year, now nearly N90,000 per bag. This has exacerbated the strain on households and the economy, with an estimated 31 million Nigerians potentially facing severe food shortages by August.

Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings also grew in Q1 2024, with a trade surplus of N6.52tn, driven by the devaluation of the naira. Total exports for Q1 2024 were valued at N19.17tn, a 51% increase from Q4 2023 and a 195.47% rise from Q1 2023.

France was the leading destination for Nigerian exports, followed by Spain, the Netherlands, India, and the United States. Major export commodities included crude oil, liquefied natural gas, sesamum seeds, urea, and superior-quality cocoa beans. Crude oil exports alone accounted for 80.80% of total exports, valued at N15.49tn.

Revenue from agricultural exports also saw significant growth, amounting to N1.04tn, up by 123.08% from Q4 2023 and by 270.13% from Q1 2023.

The recent FX reforms and naira devaluation have made Nigerian goods cheaper compared to other African countries, boosting trade surplus and foreign exchange earnings.

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