The minister of agriculture, food and security, Abubakar Kyari, has expressed the plans by the Federal government to either shut the borders or ramp up production for local consumption and export, to address the issue of food shortage in the country.
Kyari who made this known while speaking during an interaction with the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, alongside other members of the economic team over the state of Nigeria’s economy, notably rising inflation, food prices and foreign exchange crisis, expressed concerns over the food shortage and skyrocketed food prices in the country.
The minister also lamented that the country is currently faced with an undocumented amount of food exported to neighbouring countries.
According to him, with the CFA currency in neighbouring countries strengthening against the naira, Nigerian food products have become more affordable, leading to widespread smuggling across porous borders.
“One CFA is N2.20kobo, this means 1000 CFA is N2,200, this is something that was, N400-N500 a few years ago. Because of the devaluation of the naira, our food is the cheapest around the neighbourhood, so you find a lot of undocumented exports which is smuggling across our porous borders”, Kyari said.
Considering the challenge, Kyari highlighted the government’s efforts to ramp up local production, warning that if the current economic conditions persist, the government may have to make a tough choice between sealing the borders or prioritizing food production for Africans.
“We are trying to ramp up production, what we are faced with unfortunately, is to see how we can secure food for our 230 million people and at the same time, if this economics continues, we have to either seal our border or produce for all other Africans”, he said.
Kyari further explained that food smuggling is part of the reasons Nigeria is experiencing food shortages and soaring prices.
He also identified several other factors contributing to the food shortage and rising prices, including the failure of the previous administration to plan adequately for the 2023 farming season, insecurity affecting farmers’ willingness to cultivate, and a foreign exchange crisis.
However, Kyari pointed out the impact of the unavailability of foreign exchange, citing instances where investors from India, China, and Turkey purchase Nigerian crops at exorbitant prices, mainly to earn foreign exchange.
“The existing government did not plan for 2023 farming, which also impacted the quantum of harvest we had in 2023. Farmers are willing to go but because of insecurity and even fuel costs. But we are trying to assiduously work with the Ministry of Finance to support them.
“Another angle is the unavailability of FX, a lot of investors from India, China Turkey buy our crops such as soya beans and sesame oil and bag them at exorbitant prices just to earn FX. The bad thing is that it is not repatriated and the government does not derive any income from it, he added.
The minister however expressed government plans to initiate 200-250 hectares of rice farming in the medium term. However, he acknowledged challenges such as the scarcity of paddy and maize, hindering the implementation of these measures.