Nigeria’s imports from China are rising exponentially, compared to other major trading partners, including Europe, Asia and America, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has shown.
Figures published in the NBS recent report showed that China dominates the import component of Nigeria’s merchandise trade and this has been the trend for a long time. It accounts for 49 percent (N2.01 trillion) of N4.17 trillion, the value of imports from Nigeria’s five major trading partners — China, Belgium, Netherland, US and India, in the first quarter (Q1) of 2021.
Similarly, 30 percent (N2.01 trillion) of the total imports (N6.85 trillion) from 10 listed countries and others during the period came from China. The other (non-major) import originating countries listed in the particular report include Germany, Russia, Italy, United Kingdom and South Korea. They constitute N822 billion of the N6.85 trillion, or 12 percent of total import value for Q1 2021.
The NBS report, entitled “Foreign Trade in Goods Statistics” for Q1 2021, revealed that Nigeria’s imports value from China in the last five years grew by N1.63 trillion. It rose from N383.9 billion in Q1 2017 to N530.98 billion in Q1 2018 and climbed to N979.3 billion in Q1 2019. In Q1 2020, the figure rose to N1.11 trillion and hit N2.01 trillion in Q1 2021, a rise of 24 percent.
Imports from Belgium in Q1 2017 totalled N340.2 billion, but declined to N238.51 billion in Q1 2021 or 3.5 percent, unlike the trend in China. However, the Netherlands’ exports to Nigeria rose from N246.9 billion in Q1 2017 to N726.1 billion in Q1 2021, an increase of 12 percent.
In the same way, imports from the US jumped remarkably from N184.5 billion in Q1 2017 to N608.12 billion in Q1 2021, a rise of 44 percent. Nigeria’s imports figure for India was N103.6 billion in Q1 2017; it rose to N589.11 billion or 22 percent in Q1 2021. A one-off transaction with Switzerland for the importation of drugs and health care-related items in Q1 2019 resulted in an import deal of N528.89 billion, which constituted 14.3 percent of N3.6 trillion total imports for Q1 2019 from the five major trade partners. Switzerland displaced Belgium during the period.
Further analysis showed that total imports from China from Q1 2017 to Q1 2021 was N5.02 trillion, followed by the US with N1.93 trillion and Netherlands’ N1.01 trillion. India exported a total of N1.42 trillion goods to Nigeria during the five-year period, while Belgium took the bottom position among the five major countries with a total export of N1.01 billion.
The total value of imported goods from the five major originating countries was N19.58 trillion during the five-year period. This is made up of N2.28 trillion in Q1 2017, N2.51 trillion in Q1 2018 and N3.6 trillion in Q1 2019. The sums of N4.2 trillion and N6.8 trillion were recorded in Q1 2020 and Q1 2021, respectively. The difference between N2.28 billion in Q1 2017 and N6.851 trillion in Q1 2021 was 50 percent.
Further examination of the published data shows that China’s N2.01 trillion exports to Nigeria accounts for 29.34 percent of Nigeria’s total imports of N6.85 trillion in Q1 2021, followed by the Netherlands’ export of N726.1 billion to Nigeria, which amounts to 10.6 percent of the total imports. The US accounts for 8.88 percent with Nigeria’s import of N608.12 billion from the originating country and India’s 8.6 percent with N589.1 billion. Belgium recorded the lowest figure with N238.5 billion or 3.48 percent of total Q1 2021 import.
By this, China’s total import to Nigeria during the five-year period exceeds those from Europe, the US and other Asian countries, respectively. According to the report, China played the bellwether role in the export of machinery, manufactured and energy goods among the 10 originating trading partners for import trade: China, Belgium, the Netherlands, US and India as majors; Germany, Russia, Italy, United Kingdom and South Korea as minors. There are other unlisted originating countries.
Further disaggregation of the NBS Foreign Trade in Goods Statistics data revealed that total merchandise trade for Q1 2021 stood at N9.757 trillion, representing 6.99 percent over the value recorded in Q4 2020 and 14.13 percent, compared to Q1 2020. The export component of the figure was N2.9 trillion or 29.79 percent of the total trade value while import was valued at N6.85 trillion, representing 70.21 percent.
According to NBS, “The higher level of imports over exports resulted in a trade deficit (in goods) of –N3.94 billion. The value of crude oil export stood at N1.92 billion representing 66.38 percent of the total export recorded in Q1 2021, while non-crude oil export accounted for 33.62 percent of the total export.”
The imported commodities from both major and minor originating countries during the period include Durum wheat (not in seed) worth N66.97 billion from Lithuania. Durum wheat also came from Latvia (N41.51 billion), Canada (N41.31 billion). Edible mixtures or preparations of animals, worth N82.86billion, was imported from Denmark. Herrings (Clupea harengus, Clupeapallasii) were imported from Russia (N15.8billion) and Netherlands (N14billion).Others are machinery and transport equipment accounted for N2.492 billion, Chemicals and related products N1.302 billion and Mineral fuel N981.68 billion.
Aside from being a key trading partner, China has joined the league of Nigeria’s major creditors, especially under the Muhammadu Buhari administration. According to the Ministry of Finance, Nigeria has obtained 17 Chinese loans to fund different categories of capital projects and Nigeria will still be servicing the Chinese loans till around 2038, which is the maturity date for the last loans obtained in 2018.
The Debt Management Office (DMO) put the total value of loans Nigeria obtained from China at $3.121 billion as at March 31, 2020.
However, speaking on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme recently, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, disclosed that the Buhari administration had only borrowed for the Kaduna-Abuja and the Lagos-Ibadan railway projects.
When asked how much of the Chinese loans obtained that the Federal Government had repaid, Amaechi said, “The right ministry to respond to that question is the Ministry of Finance. They borrow and they repay, but I think the last I heard about it, it was between a $100m to $150m repayment that we have done so far in the Kaduna-Abuja railway project.