• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Farmers fault FG’s proposed border closure amid food shortages

Farmers fault FG’s proposed border closure amid food shortages

Farmers have said the government does not need to close the land borders again to tackle the food shortages in Nigeria.

The farmers who spoke with BusinessDay said the reopening of the land borders is not responsible for the country’s current food crisis.

They argue that border closure at this time would only be a “knee-jerk reaction”, meaning more hardship ahead for Nigerians as the law of demand and supply would come into play, causing food prices to increase further.

This is in reaction to the statement made by Abubakar Kyari, minister of agriculture and food security, on Friday, that the government might consider shutting the borders or ramp up production for local consumption and export, considering the shortage of food and the attendant price hikes in the country.

While the aim is to boost domestic production and curb smuggling, there are concerns that such a move may not achieve the desired outcome.

“It might probably not make much difference – shutting the borders from exportation of food items; rather, the government should focus more on investing in agriculture,” said Abiodun Olorundero, managing partners at Prasinos Farms.

He said this is because the cost of moving food items from the North to the South is on the high side. With skyrocketing diesel prices, and several charges that the food transporters will pay to security agencies on the roads, final consumers are worst hit as these costs are transferred.

He said: “If the government moves some focus down South, a lot of costs will be cut on logistics. These are some of the things the government should consider, not just for the borders to be shut down; because even when the borders are closed, security agencies around the borders are porous.

“They still allow these items to go out. I mean, even if not during the day, at night, after being paid some amount of money.”

Highlighting the delicate balance the government must strike, Fatai Afolabi, managing consultant of Foremost Development Services Limited, said: “We need to be able to protect our borders to tame smuggling and not to shut down our borders. Local production is increasing but there is still a demand-supply gap in most of our commodities.”

In the past, border closure policies have failed to curb smuggling, leaving food prices to soar.

The federal government had in August 2019 closed its eight major land borders with neighbouring West African countries to stem the smuggling of agricultural commodities, particularly rice, and to encourage local production.

BusinessDay findings revealed that despite the closure of the borders, foreign rice and other key staples were smuggled into the Nigerian markets through new routes at higher costs, thus resulting in higher food prices and raising questions about the effectiveness of the policy.

The demand for staple foods in Nigeria has continued to rise over the years, with the country’s population growing faster (at 2.5 percent per annum) than food production.

Experts have said shortfall in the food supply resulted in surging prices during the border closure.

“What is the point of the border closure? When we closed it the last time, what did we achieve? We were supposed to achieve increased local production, at least for our staples. That’s how people will appreciate why the border was closed,” Edobong Akpabio, executive director of Greenport Nigeria, said.

She added that the amount of food being smuggled out of the country cannot be compared with what comes in.