Agricultural stakeholders and agribusiness experts say the presidential directive for the restriction of foreign exchange for food importation “is made out of frustration’’ but call for caution by Federal Government.
They said agriculture used to be the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy before oil took over, but due to the abuse of the agricultural institutions, the president was forced to take the decision.
The stakeholders spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja.
Mr Babatunde Kehinde, Agribusiness developer said though Nigeria was not yet food self-sufficient, the president had to take the decision because the system had been bastardised by greedy profiteers.
“In the 1960s and 70s, agriculture used to be the mainstay of the economy, but today 90 per cent of foreign reserve is generated by the oil sector.
“Despite CBN Act of 2007, fraudulent politicians and businessmen still find it easy to manipulate their way to exploiting the opportunities provided by FOREX.
He said that such amount of money could instead have been channelled into the purchase of manufacturing and agricultural equipments for the benefit of Nigerians.
He reiterated that the country was not food self-sufficient because the prices of food items were still expensive.
“Even the rice production sufficiency being talked about it is still expensive, why should a bag of rice still be selling at N17, 000 upon when it is produced in the country?
“With the ban on FOREX for importation, smugglers and corrupt custom officials are going to have a field day which will lead to increase in food prices,’’ he said.
According to Kehinde, the ban may eventually favour the masses on the long run if there is increase in food production.
He emphasised that those condemning the ban were those benefitting directly from the FOREX for importation.
“If you want to bring in agricultural equipment, it is supposed to be zero, but there’s no way you can bring in these processing equipment without passing through hell,’’ Kehinde said.
Mr Cosmas Chukwudi, another stakeholder said the president’s directive would confuse the market.
He said he had expected the president to have done it in phases like one to five years plan, after putting all machineries in place to help farmers.
“The country has not attained food security so the decision was uncalled for because prices of food items are still high,’’ Cosmas said.
Mrs Chinyere Nwafor, an agriculturist and food expert said the president’s decision was a wrong policy.
“We live in a global community; therefore, there is no country in the world which can claim to be food self-sufficient.
“Its an interdependent world. What cannot grow here due to our climate can grow in another country and we need these food items as our local staple like stockfish for instance.
“I hope Mr President’s directive is only temporary,’’ she said.
Mr Anthony Agbonlahor, a lawyer and agriculture stakeholder advised that all senatorial districts should have what is called Industrial Farm Settlements.
“With this, farmers can go to their farms to produce and the government can then buy from them in bulk while those waiting to add value to these produce can do that.
“That way, employment will be generated, wealth will be created and there will be food sufficiency,’’ Agbonlahor said. (NAN)