• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Nigeria’s food imports rise to 5yr-high despite local production push

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Nigeria’s food imports surged to a five-year high in the first nine months of 2020 despite the Federal Government’s continuous push to boost local production.

A total of N1.2 trillion food products were imported into the country from January through September in 2020, indicating a 65-percent rise when compared with N726 billion in the corresponding period of 2019, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) trade report shows.

Africa’s most populous country has failed to grow more food for its fast-rising population who must be fed with staples ranging from rice, beans, tomatoes, and maize, among others.

This has forced the country to spend millions of dollars yearly importing food, thereby putting pressure on Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves and exporting thousands of jobs it would have created when the products are grown locally.

“The data is evidence that we still do not grow enough food and we are left with no option than to import,” said AfricanFarmer Mogaji, group head – agribusiness, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).

“Imports are surging despite the continuous government support. I think it is time we start addressing lingering issues that are limiting productivity,” Mogaji said.

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Indubitably, the absence of critical infrastructures such as motorable roads, storage facilities, low use of mechanisation, and irrigation facilities are some of the greatest problems limiting smallholder farmers’ productivity in the country.

Africa’s biggest economy has spent billions of dollars on various agricultural programmes in the last five years to spur local food production.

However, there is still no significant impact as the country still has a huge demand-supply gap in most of its staple foods, even as the population growth rate stands at 2.6 percent per annum, according to the World Bank.

Data from Agriculture Ministry show that Nigeria is the second-largest producer of maize in Africa with 10.5 million metric tons per annum (MT) but demand is 15 million MT, leaving a gap of 4.5 million MT.

Nigeria produces 400,000 MT of wheat annually but with a demand of 4 million MT, which leaves a gap of a 3.6 million MT.

Similarly, local production of rice is 4.78MT, while demand is 7MT, leaving a gap of 2.3MT. National supply for Irish potato is put at 900,000MT per annum but with a demand of 8 million MT and a gap of 7.1 million MT.

Similarly, local production of sweet potato is estimated at 1.2 million MT, while demand is 6 million MT, leaving a gap of 4.8 million MT.

More so, Nigeria produces 42 million MT of cassava but has a demand of 53.8 million MT of the crop, leaving a gap of 11.8 million MT.

Farming activities in 2020 were obstructed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the high rate of insecurity that forced many farmers to abandon their farmland, and the devastating impacts of flooding in the North.

Climate change has been altering and disrupting the farming cycle in the country for over three years, leading to a surge in importation.

“Apart from the obstruction caused by the pandemic, the rainfall situation in 2020 was unfavourable for farmers as many of them rely on rain-fed agriculture. There was dry spell in the South and floods in the North, which massively impacted food production,” said Kola Adebayo, a professor at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.

“The high-rate of banditry and herdsmen attacks in Nigeria’s Northern region as well as armed robbery and kidnapping in the South have forced many farmers to abandon farming, further affected food production,” Adebayo said.

Also, the government shut down the country’s land borders with neighbouring countries and restricted FX for importers of food items, thus, forcing manufacturers in the food and beverage sector to source dollars outside the official window at a higher rate.

This led to over a 100-percent surge in the prices of key staples, accelerating Nigeria’s food inflation rate to 19.59 percent in December.

The United States Department for Agriculture in its 2020 grain report for Nigeria predicted that the country will heavily rely on grain imports in 2021, owing to the impact of the pandemic, FX devaluation, and insecurity issues that cut 2020 food production output.