To discuss the topic, Food Importation Ban, is not new. However, 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. Secondly, Nigeria 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 food importation. It also looked at the fact that 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. It is no longer news that farmers have continued to reject 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.
Food Importation Ban: Likely Implications
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. However, there is need to stimulate local production by ensuring that we do away with alternatives. We have to encourage Nigerians to grow their own food, and as well, save forex for other priority government expenditure like combating insecurity.
On the other hand, this policy is similar to many attempts by the Federal Government to find solutions to the looming problems in Nigeria. Can Nigeria in its present economic state handle these complexities? Can she ameliorate the challenges associated with the restrictions in food importation? How do we compare these issues with forex availability? Not for now! Why then? you may ask.
Food Importation Ban: My Reasons
We have spoken so much of the challenges faced by the Nigerian agricultural sector. 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 launch the sector into “its realm of glory”.
A common practice is this part of the world is to put the cart before the horse. Even a blind man knows that this would only create an oscillating motion. This is similar to the moves of a pendulum clock within a limited area.
This situation leaves me to my thoughts. I keep wondering about what exactly our priorities are as a nation. The implications of a premature ban on forex to food importers increases the likelihood of a hike in food prices. Issues like Food scarcity and the promotion of food smuggling to meet local demands will add more coals to the fire. All these will only encourage more forex black-marketers to flourish amongst others.
Food Importation Ban: Questions needing answers
According to the Africareport, infrastructure plays a vital role in providing the necessities of farmers. However the questions that come after this sentence come to mind each time we hold discussions on food importation ban. 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? Are storage facilities for excess produce available? Are farmers well trained in adopting new and improved technologies that can 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 is probably time we considered re-visiting issues on food wastage and having home gardens. With the recent Covid-19 pandemic, we are already experiencing a sky-rocket hike in food prices. Until we get this right, we will continue to experience food importation bans from time to time.
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