150-Day Import Duty Free Window Is Wrong Policy

Professor of Political Economics, Patrick Utomi, has said the new policy on 150 days import duty-free window for rice, maize, wheat and other cereals by President Bola Tinubu is wrong.

Pat Utomi said the new policy announced by the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Abubakar Kyari, on Monday, was an invitation to famine.

On Tuesday, Utomi said the federal government was repeating mistakes made by previous governments that led many farmers to leave farming for oil-related jobs and construction as crude oil prices rose in the international market.

Do we forget so quickly? How poor trade policy with the ascendance of oil income caused cash crop farmers to abandon the farms to the non-tradable goods sector as messengers and construction workers and when Oil price volatility resulted in construction firms not being paid on time triggering their retrenchment.

“They did not go back to farms and we became a mono-product economy. Now we want to make dependence on food imports permanent when we have not the money to pay for the imports. We are inviting a famine,” Utomi said.

Professor Utomi said had the federal government addressed insecurity and banditry, food inflation would have been brought down as farmers would have access to their farms.

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He further accused the federal government of preferring luxury projects to factors that caused food inflation.

The Economist said the 150 days import duty-free window for rice, maize, wheat and other cereals would cause structural damage in the future.

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Months ago I pleaded that this food price inflation should be combated with forest rangers being deployed to fertile territories and farmers given input incentives managed by NGOs and not corrupt government officials so that they can focus on legumes that can be harvested in three months and the markets flooded with food.

“Instead, we focused on Presidential Jets, Lagos-Calabar Highway, SUVs for National Assembly and Presidential motorcades of 100 vehicles. The height of unwisdom. Now the chicken has come home to roost and we want to inflict long-term structural damage in panic incentives,” Utomi added.

Recall the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA), called for measures by the federal government to protect farmers and local investors who may be affected by the import duty-free window.

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On Monday, NACCIMA National President, Dele Oye, commended President Tinubu but called for monitoring of the policy’s implementation.

Oye said importers and foreign companies may turn Nigeria into a dumping ground for substandard cereals with the policy in the next 150 days.

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