The Financial Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Matthew Dingie, yesterday Tuesday 14th November, 2023 threw light on the 5% Import Duty on the staple food rice during the government weekly press briefing held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation at Tower Hill, Freetown.
Addressing the press briefing, the Financial Secretary averred that it is incumbent upon Government to generate revenue to pay workers in public institutions, such as the Judiciary, Parliament, the entire Executive, police, among others, as well as to support State machinery to run effectively and to also support services it should deliver to the people.
Matthew Dingie said there has been a lot of discussions around the Finance Act 2024, especially the introduction of 5% Import Duty on rice in 2024.
The Financial Secretary explained that taxation on rice is not a new thing but a restoration. He disclosed that Government removed taxation on rice in 2009 and it was 10%.
He said Government removed the 10% taxation on rice because of global food crisis that affected the whole world and the limited food on the market was very expensive. The Financial Secretary said because of the global food crisis in the world that called for action, the Government consequently removed the 10% Import Duty on rice in the hope that prices for food would not soar.
He said the popular view that when taxation on rice was removed its price would reduce as well, but the Financial Secretary disagreed with that popular view on the grounds that between 2009 and now when the 10% Import Duty on rice was removed, the price of rice kept soaring from Le200, 000 to the current price Le800, 000 per 50kg bag.
Matthew Dingie said the continuous increase in the price of rice even when the Import Duty was removed for fifteen years was an indication that countries growing rice passed on their costs of production to countries that imported their rice thereby empowering their own farmers.
He said the new Finance Act 2024 restored 5% Import Duty on rice so that the proceeds will go into the Agricultural Development Fund to support the ‘Feed Salone” programme, and to also empower our local farmers.
The Financial Secretary assured that they will be very transparent with the Agricultural Development Fund and that whenever a ship of rice arrives at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay, all stakeholders will be involved in the taxation process for transparency.
He disclosed that many investors in the private sector have now realized that it is very reasonable to farm in Sierra Leone and have expressed interest to embark on mechanized farming in the country.