Importation: Petrol, durum wheat, ‘tokunbo vehicles’ top Nigerian list in 2021


Premium Motor Spirit, better known as petrol, durum wheat, and used vehicles led the list of top imported items by Nigeria in 2021, jointly accounting for 28.9% of the total import bill recorded in the review year..

Nigeria imported goods worth N20.84 trillion in 2021, representing an increase of 64% compared to N12.7 trillion recorded in the preceding year. This is also the highest import bill recorded by the African giant, based on available data.

This is according to findings by Nairalytics, from the quarterly foreign trade reports, released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Recall, that Nigeria recorded a 58% surge in total international trade to N39.75 trillion in 2021 from N25.22 trillion recorded in the previous year. However, the significant surge in import bill ensured a N1.94 trillion trade deficit, further placing Nigeria as a net importing nation.

A further breakdown of the report showed that Nigeria exported crude oil worth N14.41 trillion in 2021, which represents 53% increase compared to the N9.44 trillion recorded in 2020, while also accounting for 76% of Nigeria’s total export earnings.

Nigeria being a net importing nation, Nairametrics highlights the top imported items in the year 2021.

Petrol – N3.97 trillion

Nigeria imported motor spirit oil, otherwise known as petrol worth N3.97 trillion in 2021, accounting for 19% of the total imports recorded in the period. Nigeria continues to import refined petrol due to our inability to refine crude oil locally, despite being blessed with an abundance of crude resources.

Following the war between Russia and Ukraine, the prices of crude oil have increased significantly in the global market, which has also affected the landing cost of petrol, indicating that Nigeria could be spending much on the importation of petrol in 2022.

Durum wheat – N1.29 trillion

A sum of N1.29 trillion was spent on Nigeria’s importation of durum wheat in 2021, which accounts for 6.2% of the total import bill in the year under review, and the second most imported item by value.

Durum wheat is a variety of spring wheat that’s typically ground into semolina and used to make pasta. It is also finely ground and used to prepare couscous, bulgur, noodles, and bread. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria, wheat is the third most widely consumed grain in the country after maize and rice.

“The enormous demand-supply gap is bridged with over $2 billion spent annually on wheat importation. This has made wheat the second highest contributor to the country’s food import bill,” the CBN said in an event held in Plateau State in November 2021.

Meanwhile, the significant increase in the price of wheat following the Russia-Ukraine crisis could cause a surge in Nigeria’s wheat importation in 2022.

Used vehicles – N770.13 billion

Nigerians imported used vehicles worth N770.13 billion in 2021, representing 3.7% of the total import bill recorded in the review year. According to the NBS, the used vehicle popularly referred to as Tokunbo is stated as Used Vehicles, with diesel or semidiesel engines, of cylinder capacity >2500cc.

This means that while this list is not exhaustive, there are other forms of used vehicles, Nigerians spent money to import in 2021. Recall, that Nairametrics reported last year that the cost of Tokunbo cars is expected to surge owing to imported inflation.

According to the report published in July 2021, the rising inflation on consumer goods in the United States of America is on the verge of triggering a wave of imported inflation into Nigeria, with a focus on used cars, which is a major imported item from the USA.

Others on the list include:

  • Gas oil – N568.5 billion
  • Antibiotics – N480.9 billion
  • Sugar cane – N425.6 billion
  • Machines for reception – N415.8 billion
  • Motorcycles and cycles – N390.9 billion
  • Lubricating oil – N272.3 billion
  • Polyethylene – N165.8 billion