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Nigeria to Scrap Duty on Some Food Imports to Fight Inflation

Vendors sell fresh produce at a market in Lagos. Photographer: Damilola Onafuwa/Bloomberg (Damilola Onafuwa/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- Nigeria announced a series of measures to curb food inflation that’s rising at its fastest pace in three decades in a country where almost half of its more than 200 million people live in extreme poverty.

The government will take steps including introducing a 180-day window to import wheat, corn and other food crops duty free, Agriculture and Food Security Minister Abubakar Kyari said in a statement on Wednesday. Imported foods will also be subjected to a recommended retail price, he said.

Guidelines to ensure compliance with the new measures are being finalized and will be issued in the coming days, according to a government official.

Nigeria is grappling with the consequences of a wave of economic reforms that President Bola Tinubu initiated when he came to power in May 2023. Measures including the devaluation of the naira and a hike in electricity tariffs spawned a surge in prices, with food inflation accelerating to 41% in May — the highest rate in 28 years.

The steep increase in prices and a weakening naira — the world’s worst-performing currency this year after the Lebanese pound — prompted the central bank to raise interest rates to a record. The government signaled last month that it planned to introduce measures to curb price-growth under a so-called Inflation Reduction and Price Stability Order. 

Kyari said earlier interventions by the government — including the release of 42,000 tons of assorted food commodities and the purchase of 88,500 tons of milled rice — failed to ease pressure on food prices.

“In some cases these days, food items are becoming unavailable,” Kyari said. 

To further boost supply, the government will import 250,000 tons of semi-processed wheat and a similar amount of semi-processed corn that will be supplied to small-scale processors and millers across the country. 

The government has blamed the rising food supply challenges on inadequate road and other infrastructure, multiple taxes and levies, and profiteering by marketers and traders.

At least 19 million Nigerians are food insecure, according to the International Monetary Fund, and the nation has the world’s largest population of citizens living in poverty after India.

--With assistance from Anthony Osae-Brown.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.