The Buhari administration’s mantra, to produce what it consumes and consume what it produces led to the ban of foreign exchange to import dozens of items including the staple food, rice. Although domestic production has increased, farmers are still finding it difficult to produce for a country of over 200 million population.
In 2019, a total of 41 items including rice, cement, margarine, palm kernel/palm oil products/vegetable oils, meat and processed meat products, vegetables and vegetable products, poultry chicken, eggs, and turkey were banned from being imported to encourage local production of these items, conserve foreign reserves, resuscitate domestic industries and improve employment.
Subsequently, the Federal Government said it would release 30,000 tons of maize from the national reserves to producers to deal with the high cost of poultry production after the ban on maize imports. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had earlier canceled the processing of forms M for maize and corn importation into the country. However, a letter dated 3rd of July, 2020 and signed by the President of Poultry Farmers Association, Onallo S. Akpa led to the urgent approval of 262,000 tons of maize into Nigeria due to undersupply by the government.
In a report by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics(NBS), between 2015 and 2018, Nigeria imported food and beverages estimated at N5.46 trillion or $17.8 billion. As at the first quarter of 2019 only, Nigeria’s food and beverage importation stood at N389 billion or $1.2 billion.
What we need
Although restriction on food importation has its gains, there should be an amendment of the policy to save the economy from being crippled completely. The restrictions placed on importation should be in phases to equip local farmers to produce in larger scales before a full restriction.
Closing the borders while struggling to produce locally will lead to higher prices of commodities(than the current), increased hunger of which the country ranks 113 of 119 countries with a score of 31.1 according to Global Hunger Index (GHI). Although Agriculture is one of the sectors that constitute two-third of the government’s reserve, its constant shortage of performance has put a bane on it.
Moreso, the apex financial institution, the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), should give directives independent of political inclinations.