• Thursday, February 22, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Why Nigeria may shut borders again soon — Kyari

Government may shut borders to address food shortage — Kyari

…decries smuggling of Nigeria’s food products

Abubakar Kyari, minister of agriculture food and security, on Friday raised concerns over the shortage of food in the country, along with it’s attendant hike in prices, stating that government is with a decision to either shut the borders or ramp up production for local consumption and export.

Kyari said this during an interaction with the Senate Committe on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions alongside other members of the economic team over the state of Nigeria’s economy, notably rising inflation, food prices and foreign exchange crisis.

He lamented that the coutry is currently faced with an undocumented amount of food export to neighboring countries. The minister explained with the CFA currency in neighboring countries strengthening against the naira, Nigerian food products have become more affordable, leading to widespread smuggling across porous borders.

“One CFA is N2.20kobo, this means 1000 CFA is N2,200, this is something that was , N400-N500 few years ago. Because of the devaluation of naira, our food is the cheapest around the neighborhood, so you find a lot of undocumented exports which is smuggling across our porous borders”, Kyari said.

Faced with this challenge, Kyari highlighted the government’s efforts to ramp up local production. However, he warned that if the current economic conditions persist, the government may have to make a tough choice between sealing the borders or prioritizing food production for Africans.

“We are trying to ramp up production, what we are faced with unfortunately, is to see how we can secure food for our 230 million people and at the same time, if this economics continues , we have to either seal our border, or produce for all other Africans”, he said.

Kyari noted that the food smuggling is part of the reasons Nigeria is experiencing food shortage and soaring prices.

The minister identified several other factors contributing to the food shortage and rising prices, including the failure of the previous administration to plan adequately for the 2023 farming season, insecurity affecting farmers’ willingness to cultivate, and a foreign exchange crisis.

Kyari also pointed out the impact of the unavailability of foreign exchange, citing instances where investors from India, China, and Turkey purchase Nigerian crops at exorbitant prices, mainly to earn foreign exchange.

“The exiting government did not plan for 2023 farming, that also impacted on the quantum of harvest we had in 2023. Farmers are wiling to go but because of insecurity and even fuel costs. But we are trying to assiduously work with ministry of finance to support them,” he said.

“Another angle is unavailability of FX, a lot of investors from India,China Turkey buy our crops such as soya beans, Sesame oil and bag it at exorbitant prices just to earn FX. The bad thing is that it is not repatriated and government does not derive any income from it.”

Kyari announced government plans to initiate 200-250 hectares of rice farming in the medium term. However, he acknowledged challenges such as the scarcity of paddy and maize, hindering the implementation of these measures.