The directive given by President Muhammadu Buhari not to allocate foreign exchange for importation of food into the country has been described as holding great potential for the economy.
Salamatu Garba, the founder and executive director, Women Farmers’ Advancement Network (WOFAN), told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja Thursday that this is because agriculture is the only sector that holds the key to Nigeria’s economy.
According to a NAN report, Garba was reacting to the directive given to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by President Muhammadu Buhari to stop providing foreign currency for food imports, a move said to be aimed at helping the country attain more food security.
Given Nigeria’s yearly food import bill and its excessive pressure on the nation’s foreign reserves, she said that the policy held great potential for the economy.
“Agriculture holds the key to Nigeria’s future prosperity and I believe all necessary policies should be put in place to make it the mainstay of our economy.
“The policy directive is well-intentioned, in view of the medium and long-term implications for Nigeria’s food security, job creation, exchange rate and sustainable economic growth,” she said.
Garba however said that the announcement of the policy by the Federal Government was too sudden and without adequate consultations from the monetary authorities.
This, she argued, was nothing but a usurpation of the CBN’s statutory roles.
The executive director also reacted to the reported claims by a section of the public that the policy would lead to further increase in food prices.
“The question is: must we continue to eat imported rice when we have all it takes to produce the commodity to meet local demands and make it a competitive commodity globally?” she queried.
On the concern being raised in some quarters that the policy might encourage smuggling, Garba said that in as much as smugglers were not getting foreign exchange from official foreign exchange windows, it was good for the system.
She urged the Federal Government to address the challenges confronting the sector such as the inadequate processing, storage and marketing capacity for farm produce.
“If the government focuses on the gaps in the agricultural value chain and consolidate on the recent agricultural interventions by the CBN, Bank of Agriculture and commercial banks, Nigeria will be able to feed her citizens and also become a net exporter of food in the near future.
“We have all it takes to feed ourselves. What we only need is to sincerely and genuinely commit our efforts towards enhancing rain-fed and irrigation farming, to boost local food production,” she said.
According to her, Nigeria has enough to eat, adding “we only need to fully harness our food crops and curb the problem of post-harvest losses”.
She also stressed the need for government to make more credit available and cheaper for agricultural production across the value chain, with priority given to the youth. (NAN)