FG MULLS BORDERS CLOSURE OVER FOOD CRISIS
The Minister of Agriculture Food and Security, Sen. Abubakar Kyari, has revealed that Nigeria’s borders may be “sealed” as part of efforts to bring down high prices of food.
Kyari asserted this in Abuja on Friday during the Senate’s meeting with the nation’s economic team to address the rising inflation and cost of living in the country.
At the meeting, the minister attributed the surge in food inflation to the porosity of the borders.
This meeting came after Nigerians took to the streets and blocked major roads in some states in a demonstration of their frustration against the rising cost of living in the country.
However, the minister said smuggling of agricultural products by foreign investors was the key driver of food insecurity.
He said, “So you find a lot of undocumented export being smuggled out across our porous borders into these neighbouring countries.
“A lot of investors, be it Indians, Chinese, Turkey, or Britain in the country, buy our crops that are sold outside like soybeans and sesame.
“They buy them at exorbitant prices just to earn foreign exchange when they go out there and sell them, but the bad thing about it is that most of this money is not repatriated to Nigeria.
“Exports is a good thing for us, but when it’s not repatriated, and when the government does not derive any income from it, then I’m sorry, that’s not a good sign”.
Kyari also added that the ministry is ramping up production to bridge the gap between supply and demand of over 230 million people.
However, he noted that it is faced with economic challenges that must be tackled if it defies all monetary and fiscal policies by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Ministry of Finance.
Nigeria’s inflation rate has maintained a steady rise to the tune of 28.92 per cent despite the CBN’s increase of the Monetary Policy Rate to 18.75 per cent, floating of the naira, the FMAFS disbursement of farm inputs at a subsidized rate to farmers and the various interventions of the ministry of finance.
Speaking on measures to be rolled out if all economic policies fail, Kyari said, “We have 70 million hectares available in Nigeria, but if we can secure the land and have farmers go back to the farm, I’m sure we can do it.
“If these economics continue, then you have to either seal up the border, which is against the ECOWAS issue or produce for all of West Africa and that’s the unfortunate thing”.
Earlier, the minister of information and national orientation, Mohammed Idris, disclosed that President Bola Tinubu has directed the immediate release of 42,000 metric tons of assorted food items from both the strategic reserve and the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria as a short-term response to the rising food shortage in the country.
According to him, “The first one is that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has been directed to release about 42.000 metric tons of maize, millet, garri, and other commodities in their strategic reserve so that these items will be made available to Nigerians; 42,000 metric tons immediately.
“The second one is that we have held meetings with the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria. Those who are responsible for producing this rice and we have asked them to open up their stores.“Now, the third item is that the government is also looking at the possibility, if it becomes necessary, as an interim measure in the short run to also import some of these commodities.”