Experts worry as rice imports increase by 200MT
Agricultural experts have expressed concern over the increase in rice imports into the country despite interventions in the value chain by the Central Bank of Nigeria through its Anchor Borrowers Programme.
Speaking at the ongoing 44th National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development in Abuja, industry experts observed that it was becoming tough to guarantee food security in Nigeria following widespread insecurity across the country.
Delivering a presentation at the council, a professor of agricultural economics and policy as well as Chair, Infrastructure, Nigeria Zero Hunger Forum, Gbolagade Ayoola, said findings showed that Nigeria imported about 200MT of rice in 2020.
He said there was an intractable dilemma, featuring a serially correlated occurrence of conflicts and tradeoffs in the policy process for achieving food security in Nigeria.
He said, “As Nigeria becomes better off in terms of food imports dependence on other countries of the world, it also becomes worse off in terms of farm input import dependence and foreign loans or vice versa.
“We have a food policy dilemma that shows that on one hand, fertiliser imports decreased between 2018 and 2019, which implies lower dependence on farm input import from other countries.
“But on the other hand, reports indicate that rice imports increased by nine per cent (from 2.2 million MT in 2019 to 2.4 million MT in 2020), which implies higher dependence on food imports from other countries in the subsequent period.”
Ayoola, who cited the FAS-USDA Report of 2020 on rice imports, wondered why there had been persistent food policy problems from one regime to another or from one administration to another.
“Why is this happening, as if we cannot learn from our own mistakes from the past to the present? he asked.
In providing answers to the question, Ayoola observed that the state of Nigeria’s agricultural infrastructure was poor and had remained so.
He said there had been gaps in infrastructure type, stock, quantity, flow, quality and sustainability, and that the philosophy behind food security policy was wrong and had remained so.
This, he explained, was in terms of the traditional notion of food as a human need that concentrated on the supply side of food market, rather than the contemporary notion of food as a human right that should concentrate on the demand side.
Also speaking at the event, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ernest Umakhihe, said the country’s agricultural policies would be reviewed in order to effectively address the concerns of stakeholders.
“This provides a forum for us to review ongoing policies and programmes towards a meaningful impact on the economy of the country,” he said.
Umakhihe added, “As a responsibility at this meeting, we will effectively examine the challenges in the agricultural sector and explore best approach to sustaining food security, employment generation and wealth creation in the country.”
He said the process would assess the effect of extant policies and programmes, fine-tune the existing strategies, and shape initiatives for agricultural development across the country.