Business

Nigeria can’t feed self yet, says analysts

…as flood, herders attacks, others threaten food security

 

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had said that about seven million Nigerians will experience food shortage between June and August, this year as 16 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have been identified to face food and nutrition challenges. PAUL OGBUOKIRI reports that Nigeria’s food insufficiency crisis would persist beyond the year as flood, herders’ attack among others threaten national food security plan

 

Issue

 

From being self-sufficient in food production
up until the 1970s, Nigeria became importdependent
from the 1980s onwards, spending
$3 billion annually importing food. The World
Bank’s IT-enabled tracker, World Integrated
Trade Solution, said the country imported
food from 101 countries in 2018, mostly from
Brazil with imports worth $562.98 million,
followed by China $184.46 million, and the
United States $135.35 million.

 

Figures from the Central Bank of Nigeria
(CBN) and the National Bureau of Statistics
show that between 2016 and June 2019, the
country spent $38.24 billion on importation
of agricultural goods, including plant, machinery
and equipment. In 2019, $1.09 billion
wheat, $406 million sugar and $199 million
palm oil were imported.

Floods as threat to food insecurity

 

Fear of food crisis is heightening in Nigeria
following massive floods that are ravaging
crop farms in many parts of the country.

 

Many farmlands were reportedly destroyed
by floods in Kebbi, Zamfara, Niger, Rivers,
C/Rivers, Sokoto, Bauchi and some parts of
Kwara State.

 

Rice and maize farmlands were most affected
and farmers fear this could further hike the
prices of the staple food in the country.

 

A market survey showed that prices of food
items are already going up in the market.
In Kano, a 100kg of maize now costs N20,000,
N22,000 in Benue, N24, 000 in Abuja and as
high as N25,000 in Lagos State.

 

The same size of maize sold between N9,
000 and N11, 000 last year across the country.
Also, 100kg of local rice now costs N55, 000 in
Kano, N58, 000 in Abuja, while prices of beans
range from N22, 000 to N24, 000 per 100kg
depending on the market and state.

 

The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency
(NIHSA) had warned that the current water
level in the Middle Niger of the Niger Basin
portends some level of concern for Nigeria as
there could be a likelihood of river flooding in
the states contiguous to River Niger.

 

The states, according to the agency, are Kebbi,
Niger, Kwara, Nasarawa, Kogi, Anambra,
Delta, Edo, Rivers and Bayelsa.

 

The Director-General of the agency, Engr.
Clement Onyeaso Nze said parts of the country
through Kebbi State will be flooded beginning
from September 6.

 

Huge deficit in wheat production

 

The value of locally produced wheat in Nigeria
was estimated at $13 million in 2016, rising
to $15.5 million in 2017 with projections that
local producers would increase production to
$16 million and $16.3 million in 2018 and 2019,
respectively. But the national wheat production
capacity is a drop in the ocean compared
to the Nigerian market demand that was valued
at $1.2 billion in 2016 and $1.5 billion in
2017, with estimates putting the 2018 and 2019
requirements at $1.65 billion and $1.7 billion,
respectively.

 

“Local wheat production remained inadequate
and other domestic supplies of substitute
staples within Nigeria and neighboring
countries have not kept pace with demand,”
according to a November 2018 report issued
by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA).

 

The deficit has been met through imports
from countries such as the United States that
exported $300 million and $400 million worth
of wheat to Nigeria in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

The United States’ wheat exports to Nigeria
in 2018 and 2019 are projected to reach
$530 million and $534 million, respectively.

 

Additional wheat imports came from Russia,
Canada and Germany.

 

“Nigeria still imports significant amounts
of food and the country also does not earn
significant foreign exchange from agriculture,
meaning we are losing both ends,” said Chief
Audu Ogbeh, a former Minister for Agriculture
and Rural Development, in a previous
ministry report.

Furthermore, government and analyst reports
indicate that Nigeria, which has only 30
million hectares of cultivated land compared
to 78.5 million hectares needed to feed the
country’s 196 million, suffers a 2.7-milliontonne
rice deficit. This is despite the area
under cultivation having expanded from 2.4
million hectares in 2010 to 3.2 million tonnes
in 2017, with 80 per cent of the producers being
smallholder growers while 20 per cent of
the production was from commercial farmers.

 

Deficit in rice and new government policy
Nigeria, currently the largest rice producer
in West Africa and second largest grower
in Africa, meets its rice deficit from imports
sourced from India, Thailand, Benin, Brazil
and China with the government banking on
the implementation of a new agricultural
policy, Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP),
to not only increase rice production but also
substantially reduce the imports, which make
Nigeria the world’s third largest importer of
the commodity.

 

Nigeria’s drive to reduce grain imports and
increase local production is anchored on APP,
which replaces the Agricultural Transformation
Agenda (ATA), which the government
had previously attributed to contributing to
11 per cent growth of the country’s general
agricultural output and reduced the total food
import bill by $1.3 billion before the collapse
of the oil prices in 2015.

 

Other initiatives

Other interventions introduced by Nigeria
in its quest for increased quality agricultural
production include the introduction of the
Anchor Borrower’s scheme under which
the government has disbursed $150 million
to 250,000 farmers and also the launch of the
Presidential Fertilizer Initiative.

 

The fertilizer initiative has led to the revitalization
of 14 fertilizer blending plants, with a
total installed capacity in excess of 2 million
tonnes annually, thereby supporting many
farmers nationwide, according to government
records. Furthermore, the government
recently announced it is proceeding with
the privatisation of 20 out of the 23 Strategic
Grains Reserve Silos in the country to ensure
food security.

 

Despite the determination by Nigeria to
pull up its grain production levels, several
hurdles must be crossed to achieve quality
increased production of key crops, especially
rice, wheat, corn and soybeans. Although Nigeria’s
rice production has been on the upswing
over the last five years to 8.7 million
tonnes in 2017, smuggling of the food commodity
across the country’s porous borders
continues to suppress national efforts to expand
production. It is estimated 95 per cent of
the rice imported into Nigeria enters through
informal means such as smuggling through
cross-border smuggling channels despite existence
of new foreign exchange regulations
to curb the rice imports.

 

“Nigeria’s domestic rice production target
is also far from reality due to lack of infrastructure,
poor policy implementation, as
well as increasing state of security caused by
Boko Haram and rural violence in many riceproducing
regions in northern region,” the
USDA said.

 

Demand for corn also is expected to remain
high despite Nigeria producing 7 million
tonnes of the 7.5 million tonnes needed to
meet national demand.

 

The USDA said Nigeria’s demand for animal
feed is set to rise, which together with the
“increasing foreign investment in the sector
are expected to boost corn imports to 550,000
tonnes, a nearly 40 per cent increase compared
to the preceding year.”

 

The trend of importing key grains to meet
Nigeria’s rising demand is expected to continue
until it addresses what the African Development
Bank identifies as “significant challenges
including foreign exchange shortages,
disruptions in fuel supply, power shortages
and insecurity in some part of the country.”
How much is Nigeria spending on importing
food?

 

According to data from Nigeria’s National
Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the amount of
money the country has been spending on importing
food and drink increased from 2015
to 2017, dipped in 2018 and if the trend from
the first quarter of this year continues, the bill
will go up again for this year.

 

In 2015, Nigeria spent nearly $2.9 billion (£2.4
billion) and by 2017 that had risen to $4.1bn,

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