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Taming Nigeria’s food import bills



Taming Nigeria’s food import bills

Recently, the Federal Government announced that Nigeria’s food importation has dropped drastically, linking it to its agricultural policies. Taiwo Hassan reports



Effects of food imports
For many decades, the Nigerian markets have been the toast for renowned agric countries in the world, particularly for importation of foreign food items to compliment local production.
Indeed, the massive importation of foreign food items was seen as an alternative to sustaining the country’s food sufficiency profile amid the notion that local farmers were not doing enough to cater for the Nigerian populace.

Ironically, the opening up of Nigeria’s borders and its gateways not only put smiles on the faces of importers, rice merchants and others in the value chain imports market but also creates jobs in the countries from where these products are imported.
Similarly, the continued importation of the foreign food items into the country is not only killing the local market from attaining optimal growth and development, it also contributes to the raising of the country’s food imports bill. Additionally, this also depletes significantly the country’s foreign exchange earnings and puts pressure on the FX market.

Statistics from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) showed that massive importation of food, especially rice, wheat, sugar and fish, has continued to bleed the nation’s economy, with the four items accounting for a whopping N1 trillion loss to the nation annually.
Currently, Nigeria has about $22 billion food import substitution bill, which is presently threatening the sustainability of food security and saving the declining foreign exchange earnings.

Re-jigging old norms
Following the assumption of Office by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2015 and coupled with the decline in crude oil price at the international market, the need to change the paradigm towards the continued importation of food became imperative.
Indeed, the present administration gave special attention to three key sectors of the economy – agriculture, manufacturing and solid minerals – in a bid to diversify the economy into non-oil sector. In line with its policy statement to re-position agriculture, President Buhari’s administration took various agricultural policies as part of efforts to revive the sector and make it a major revenue generating sector.
President Buhari had emphasized that Nigeria was still an agrarian economy where agriculture should form the larger bulk of the country’s revenue generation.

FG’s stance on food imports
Speaking at the inauguration of chairpersons and members of Boards of 23 agencies and parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development recently, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Heineken Lokpobiri, disclosed that Nigeria was recording a massive decline in food importation, tracing it to the present administration’s agricultural policies that had started to have far-reaching effects on the transformation of the sector.
He revealed that the country had achieved significant results in its bid to grow the sector but that Nigeria still has a lot of work to do in the sector.

He noted that in the last couple of months, the importation of food items, including rice and fish, into the country had reduced significantly, noting that efforts are in progress to further reduce all food imports to the barest minimum.
“Efforts on developing other agricultural products like cassava, millet, cocoa, hibiscus flower (zobo), ginger, cashew nuts and so on are yielding positive results,” he added.

Lokpobiri noted that since the inception of the current administration, concerted efforts had been made to diversify the economy and agriculture is the foremost sector being explored in this regard.
He explained that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has the responsibility of developing agriculture, making it the key driver of rural development for the transformation of the economy, with a view of attaining food security, generating employment and becoming a net exporter of agricultural produce and earner of foreign exchange.

“Our agricultural research institutions and colleges have a vital role to play in achieving this goal as they have a mandate to ensure the development of new technologies, inputs, production techniques, storage and distribution techniques and processes through research for improved yield and reduction in losses. Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation also plays a major role in protecting farmers from agricultural losses in the entire value chain,” he added.

Positive change
Besides, Lokpobiri averred that the President Buhari administration is devoted to ensuring positive change in the lives of Nigerians and also improve standard of living across the country.
According to him, this can only be achieved through transparency and accountability in the conduct of the government’s business.

Last line
The news that Nigeria is recording a decline in its food importation bill through its agricultural policies is supposed to be a cheering news for the country, but unfortunately, it’s worrisome that government is yet to tackle the menace of smuggling and influx of imported food items into the country.

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