Nigeria spent over N 1 trillion ($5 billion) on food importation in one year despite being blessed with vast arable land and vibrant population for farming, said IFAD President Dr Kanayo Nwanze.
Blessed with vast arable land and vibrant population for farming amidst economic hardship facing the country Nigeria spent over N 1 trillion ($5 billion) on food importation in one year. This revelation was brought to the fore in an exclusive interview granted The Union recently by the President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Dr Kanayo Nwanze who said Nigeria has 84 million hectares of arable land, but only 40 per cent of it is cultivated thus making our agricultural cultivation highly unproductive”.
According to Nwanze, “Africa as a whole spent $35 billion on food import within the period. So Nigeria, imported 1.7 percent of that and it is not a small number because if you look at that it gives a clue that about 14 percent of the food was imported by Nigeria alone”.
This corroborated a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recent report that Nigeria spent about $1billion on food import in 5 months. In the report, the CBN had said staggering amount of about $949 was spent on food imports over the past five months in the country.
The Director of Monetary Policy, CBN, Mr. Moses Tule had hinted this recently during a private sector dialogue on foreign exchange policy organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), wherein he explained that between January and May this year, CBN depleted $575 million on importation of wheat, $374 million on fish importation and $349 billion on electrical and electronics.
The CBN official had noted that some of the items on the list are what we can produce in Nigeria, “with the level of unemployment we have in the country, CBN must ensure that the economy survived and private sectors create jobs.”
Frowning at this trend and to check its debilitating effects on our economy, Nwanze maintained that Nigeria needed to have the right agricultural policies that act as an incentive for both small and commercial farmers to thrive, adding that “on one the other hand, we need access to inputs; and the other hand, we need access to agricultural policies that are able to incentivize producers, farmers and the commercial sector to be engaged in agriculture.
This way, we can stop importing food unnecessarily”. The IFAD bose said if Nigeria continued to import food to meet its local demand, she is using money that should have been invested in Nigeria, to invest in the people producing the food elsewhere, pointing out that by pumping money into those countries exporting food into Nigeria, indirectly creating jobs for them.
He continued: “Is it not ridiculous to be creating jobs for your neighbour when you don’t have jobs yourself? Nigeria is a market by itself.
Over 170 million people, is a big market. It is not a question of people not buying the food. People are there and they want to eat, but we do not have enough. We have a vibrant market.
We can produce enough food to feed Nigerians, but we have to have the right policies that act as incentive for people to produce; and we have to have the necessary infrastructure so that those who produce these foods in the rural areas can transport them to market”.