It beats my imagination that the most populous black nation on earth and the giant of Africa was once 80% (yeah right? That high) self sufficient in food production and was highly dependent on foreign exchange earnings from the exportation of cash crops to manage its economy. Hmmm!
Recall when I wrote an article in 2018 on the CBN’s ban on forex for the importation of fertilizer?
The article dwelt on the possible implications of a ban on importation especially since the government was yet to set-up a solid framework to encourage local production. Well, while the internet may be inundated with testimonials from farmers who have benefited from the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative – an initiative implemented in partnership with the Moroccan Government, to promote the local production of over one million metric tonnes of NPK fertilizer – sources have it that this may not be the case in reality as farmers have rejected these fertilizer specifications owing to the fact that they do not meet their crop nutrient requirements.
The same fate may befall the country’s food industry with the recent directive by the Federal Government to the CBN not to grant forex (foreign exchange) to food importers. This implies that food importers would now have to go through the herculean task of obtaining forex from the black market at higher rates.
What are the likely implications of this new development?
In being objective, I must admit that there are two sides to the issue. Firstly, reckoning the development from the surface, it may seem like what we have always needed as a nation; to stimulate local production by ensuring that we do away with alternatives, encourage Nigerians to grow their own food, as well as save forex for other priority government expenditure like combating insecurity. On the other hand, similar to many Federal Government attempted solutions at looming problems in Nigeria; can Nigeria in its present economic state handle the complexities and ameliorate the challenges associated with the restriction of food importation accessibility to Forex? Not for now. Why then you may ask.
Here are my reasons;
We have spoken so much of the challenges faced by the Nigerian agricultural sector that it has become so much of a broken record that irritates some of us monumentally. Whatever efforts that may have been made over the years have not transcended to launching the sector into “its realm of glory”. A common practice is this part of the world is to put the cart before the horse; and even a blind man knows that this would only create an oscillating motion similar to the moves of a pendulum clock within a limited area. This leaves me wondering, what exactly our priorities are as a nation? The implications of a premature ban on forex to food importers risk the likelihood of a hike in food prices, food scarcity, promotion of food smuggling to meet local demands, encouraging forex black-marketers to flourish amongst others.
Did all stakeholders across the food industry’s value chain dialogue on this issue before now? Are we self-sufficient in food production yet? What efforts are being made to ensure equitable distribution of food round the country? Do farmers now have access to markets or infrastructure that facilitate processing and or storage of excess produce? Are farmers well trained in adopting new and improved technologies that will boost food production? Can Nigerian farmers access credit “easily” and at low interest rates? Does the average Nigerian farmer have access to basic amenities for sustainable livelihood?
Well, “if you know, you know!” It’s probably time we considered re-visiting issues on food wastage and having home gardens, just in case food prices sky-rocket next year.
- Esther Ogbole is a graduate of Agricultural Economics. She is a prolific writer who enjoys research and has great passion for sustainable growth and development in Africa. Her writings focus on changing perceptions and motivating all hands to be on deck in the re-definition of the Nigerian agricultural sector.