Nigeria Set to Lead Global Rice Imports by 2024 – USDA Report Reveals
Nigeria is anticipated to secure its place as the world's foremost rice buyer in 2024, with projections from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) painting a compelling picture of import activity and shifts in the global rice trade.
USDA's latest report projects Nigeria to import a staggering 2.1 million metric tons of rice in 2024. This forecast, if realized, would position Nigeria at the helm of global rice imports. The report highlights a global trade estimate of about 52.85 million tons (milled basis) for 2024, with prominent increases in exports anticipated from Brazil and South Korea, and corresponding escalated imports from Burkina Faso, Indonesia, and notably, Nigeria.
Notably, the report outlines a concerning trend of weakening rice production, not just in Nigeria but also in seven other countries. According to the USDA analysis, weaker rice production is expected in Nigeria, attributing this trend to a variety of factors including suboptimal crop conditions and other underlying challenges.
The overall global rice production for the 2023/24 period is projected at an impressive 517.8 million tons (milled basis), indicating a minor decline from the previous forecast but still significantly higher compared to the previous year. Nigeria is expected to contribute approximately 5.23 million tons to this global production figure.
Nigeria's ascendancy as a top rice importer in 2024 is supported by data in the report which positions the country ahead of Indonesia, projected to import 2 million metric tons, and Brazil, forecasted at 900,000 metric tons. This upward revision in Nigeria's import forecast, increased by 100,000 metric tons from the previous projection in October, is attributed to heightened demand for imported rice due to domestic price hikes and quality concerns.
The recent removal of foreign exchange restrictions by the Central Bank of Nigeria, initially imposed eight years ago on rice and 42 other items, is expected to bolster rice importation and stimulate increased trade activity. The move has elicited mixed reactions, with some farmers supporting the lifting of the foreign exchange ban, citing potential benefits in breaking the monopoly held by local millers in grain processing and marketing.
Despite indications of a decline in rice imports previously, marked by a substantial drop of 98.4% between the first seven months of 2022 and the corresponding period in 2021 according to data from the Thai Rice Exporters Association, concerns persist regarding the influx of foreign rice through unofficial channels such as smuggling.
Recent announcements from the Nigeria Customs Service reported the seizure of 13 trailer loads of foreign parboiled rice among other items, raising questions about the actual scale of rice imports into the country beyond official records.
As Nigeria gears up to potentially lead the world in rice imports by 2024, the dynamics of domestic production, trade policies, and the global market will continue to shape the trajectory of this essential staple in the nation's diet and economy.