LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- Nigeria on Wednesday announced it was suspending import duties and other taxes on rice while launching a raft of other measures to head off a food crisis in Africa's most populous nation.
The government said that it will not collect taxes on imported rice until the end of October at the earliest in a bid to curb rising prices on the staple food for many of Nigeria's 140 million people. It also said it would seek to bolster domestic rice production while increasing its stock of emergency stores.
Soaring fuel prices, growing demand from the burgeoning middle classes in India and China and poor weather have contributed to the jump in food prices worldwide, economists say. Africa has been particularly hard hit.
The government said it believed it could avert a food crisis in the country where most people live below the poverty line and struggle to feed their families.
"The federal government remains fully confident that its immediate, medium and long term strategies for national food security will achieve the desired results and alleviate the impact of the global food crisis on Nigerians," it said in a statement.
Like many poorer nations, Nigeria has struggled with spiraling prices for basic food items like grains, legumes and rice, which has seen a near doubling in its price in recent months.
Nigeria's national bakers' union has announced a strike to protest the rising costs of wheat flour and sugar, leaving stores shelves empty of bread. Nigeria is Africa's most-populous nation and the largest market on the world's poorest continent. Most people live on less than $2 per day and persistent food shortages could easily lead to civil unrest.
Protests and riots over rising food prices have already occurred in Somalia, Egypt, Cameroon and Burkina Faso.