Depending on who you listen to, rice importation accounts for a forex pull of between $1-2.6B annually. We also have a domestic supply gap of 1.3 million tones, which represents the import allocation given to some 20 companies for 2015.
Of the 41 items on the CBN forex rate restriction list, this seems to be the highest dollar pull. It is also the only one that translates to food on the table for all strata of Nigerians.
I am not an advocate of bans. I’m a promoter of free markets, supply/demand, competition and consumer centred market balancing. However, I have to admit that an outright prohibition of the importation of the common long grain parboiled rice would spell a great relief for the Naira.
. What did we eat before rice came?
. Would the non availability of imported rice spell a food crises?
. Are there alternative foods out there?
. What unique nutritional value does rice have that is not found in other ubiquitous alternatives like yam and the cassava variants?
. Will banning the importation of rice spark a leap frog in rice farming/local production and increase employment and agro business entrepreneurship?
. What other benefits can accrue from a ban on rice imports? Would it allow for flexibility with some of the other constraints that we are now facing with discretionary Forex based spending, international commerce, travels, and other sectors? Is this a good trade off? Remember we would not lose much income from import duties as the rice importers enjoy waivers from government running into tens of billions of Naira annually.
Did I miss out any other pertinent question? Ask in the comments and we may get an answer.
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