BusinessDay

Expert advocates return of commodity boards to close food price gap

...says inflation may drive Nigeria into Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka situation

Osifo Agharese, an associate professor of agricultural economics at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma has urged the Nigerian government to restore agricultural marketing boards to prevent fluctuation of prices of farm produce amid a spike in the nation’s inflation rate.

The academic pointed out that if the commercial boards for various cash crops, including cocoa and rubber, are re-introduced, it will go a long way to change the image of Nigeria’s export value and, to a large extent, contribute to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

He further said that the defunct marketing boards, which was established to fix prices for commodities among other objectives, will encourage farmers to increase production and produce high quality crops that will meet international quality specifications if the boards are re-established.

“Farmers are short-changed by the exploitative actions of trade and market unions, hence government should form regulatory bodies to help farmers get good prices for their outputs in view of the current inflation. In the past, we had a commodity marketing board and if the government can bring it back so that they will be responsible for marketing the products, then our earnings will increase.

“Nigeria has fertile agricultural lands and about five different agro-ecological zones. When farmers know that if they produce, they will take it to the marketing boards and not the market unions who will oppress them, then they will be encouraged to produce more because they are sure of who will buy it; and when they produce more, it will be the more the goods, the lesser the price,” Agharese said.

Read also: US commits $55m to Nigeria’s food security relief

Speaking further, he said “There is what we call standard specification, and in international market, every produce has standard specification. One reason why we are not able to export yam and cassava is because there is no marketing boards for them. Farmers produce but it does not meet international standard in terms of quality and quantity.”

Agharese, a consultant agricultural finance and marketing practitioner to Bank of Agriculture and Central Bank of Nigeria, while expressing his thoughts on the prevailing economic challenges across the nation, told BusinessDay in Benin City that if urgent action is not taken, Africa’s largest economy might be heading towards the likes of Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, who are facing economic crisis.

“The Nigerian economy is encountering serious inflation. We have never had it so bad in this country. The Inflation rate in nigeria is frightening and we are going the way of Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe if nothing is done. Many expatriates are not interested in coming to nigeria because of the rising inflation rate and it worsens our economy.

The university teacher, who lamented the alarming dollar to naira exchange rate, said “The inflation we have in nigeria is very unique because of the dollar to naira exchange rate and because of our preference for foreign goods to local ones. A lot of the goods consumed in Nigeria have some foreign exchange components.

“Also, the harvesting of so much, humongous ransom money by kidnappers is partly responsible for this inflationary trend in the country or the parlous state of the economy. There is so much illicit and criminal money in the hands of people who are not producing.

“These kidnappers, like other criminals, do not contribute to the formal economy, they do not put anything on the table that will add to the economic development but yet they have these monies,” he added.

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