Nigeria Closes Rice Importer Warehouses Over Unpaid Custom Fees

Nigeria’s customs office is shutting down the warehouses and offices of four rice importers, including Singapore-based Olam International Ltd., over unpaid fees.

Customs are demanding 23.6 billion naira ($119 million) in fees owed for more than 750,000 metric tons of rice imported in excess of an allocated quota, Nigerian customs spokesman Wale Adeniyi said by phone on Wednesday from Lagos, the commercial capital. Olam owes 5 billion naira in duties and levies, while Dubai-based Stallion Group owes 17 billion naira, Adeniyi said.

“We have sealed off a total of 21 warehouses and business premises in Lagos,” Adeniyi said. Further closures will probably happen outside of the southwestern state, he said.

“Olam can confirm that we have initiated legal recourse,” the company said in an e-mailed statement, declining to comment further. Stallion didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation is dependent on imports to satisfy staple rice demand. Nigeria produces less than half of the 6 million tons a year it consumes, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

That gap has meant the government grants a concession rate of 30 percent of customs fees for rice brought into the country within a set quota and 70 percent for imports outside of the limit, Adeniyi said.

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