The country spends N1tn every year to import rice, sugar, wheat and fish, translating to over N10tn from 2005 till now, the Federal Government has said.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Sonny Echono, stated that Nigeria’s food import was growing at an unsustainable rate of 11 per cent, while the country had continued to rely on expensive foods from the global market.
Echono spoke during the opening of a two-day workshop on the theme: ‘Food crisis prevention and management charter’, held at the headquarters of the FMARD in Abuja on Wednesday.
He said, “Nigeria became a net importer of food and major importer of wheat, rice, sugar and fish. Importation of these four commodities consumes over N1tn in foreign exchange every year since 2005. The Central Bank of Nigeria showed that Nigeria is the world’s largest importer of United States hard red and white winter wheat, with an annual food import of N635bn.
“It is also the second largest importer of rice (N700bn in 2014), sugar (N217bn) and fish (N97bn). Nigeria’s food imports are growing at an unsustainable rate of 11 per cent per annum, while reliance on the import of expensive food in the global markets fuels domestic inflation, and Nigeria is importing what it can produce in abundance. Import dependency is hurting Nigerian farmers, displacing local production and creating rising unemployment.”
Echono, who was represented by the Director of Agriculture, Mr. Damilola Eniayeju, explained that the nation had vast arable land for cultivation, adding that this must be harnessed by stakeholders in order to effectively prevent a food crisis and reduce imports to the barest minimum.
He noted that the country had about 174 million people to feed daily as well as its neighbours, stressing that it was high time the nation started thinking of massive agricultural production for export.
Echono said, “Nigeria has huge agricultural potential, with over 84 million hectares of arable land, of which only 40 per cent is cultivated; a population of over 167 million, making it Africa’s largest market; and 230 billion cubic metres of water, making it one of the richest sources for agricultural growth in the world.
“Agriculture contributes to rural people’s livelihood by providing them with food and income. In addition, agricultural exports have potential to contribute to the national economy through generating foreign exchange and improving the balance of payments.”
The workshop had representatives from the Economic Community of West African States, United States Agency for International Development, United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and other international agencies.