Farmers Urge FG to Restore Duties on Food Importation Immediately

AFAN President Warns Against Long-Term Duty-Free Importation of Food Items

Abuja, Nigeria – The National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Arc. Kabir Ibrahim, has expressed concerns over the federal government’s decision to allow duty-free importation of food items, warning it could undermine local production gains in key staples like maize, rice, and wheat.

In an interview with Nairametrics on Tuesday, Ibrahim acknowledged that while the current food security crisis necessitates some level of trade liberalisation, imports should be strictly limited to a 150-day period.

“The situation with food security today requires some form of trade liberalisation and imports but should not exceed the stipulated 150 days period,” Ibrahim stated. He emphasized that the importation of rice would be particularly detrimental to Nigerians who have heavily invested in its production and processing.

Ibrahim called for government investment through subsidies on inputs such as machinery, fertilizers, and chemicals to ensure a sustainable food system in the country. “The gains made in internal sufficiency will certainly be lost in some of the three competencies mentioned viz; rice, maize and wheat,” he added.

“Rice importation would be very painful for those who have invested heavily in production and processing. The issues with wheat and maize are somewhat easier to handle, as there has always been some limited importation.”

Ibrahim also stressed the need for sustained support for local agriculture. “To really have a sustainable food system, Nigeria should encourage and intensify production, processing, distribution, and marketing of competences in which we have a proven comparative advantage by providing sustainable subsidies to inputs such as fertilizers, chemicals, and mechanization.”

He conceded that controlled importation within a limited period could help alleviate hardships but cautioned against extending it beyond the agreed five months or 150 days and the agreed quotas of 500,000 metric tonnes.

Background: The federal government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, recently announced plans to begin duty-free importation of select food commodities, including rice, maize, and wheat. This initiative aims to increase food supply and replenish the strategic grain reserve.

The government also plans to establish a Guaranteed Minimum Price (GMP) for commodities and ramp up production, particularly among smallholder farmers, during the 2024/2025 farming season. These measures are part of broader efforts to combat the severe food crisis currently facing Nigeria.

Food inflation in Nigeria surpassed 40% in May 2024, with prices of staple foods like rice, maize, wheat, bread, and beans more than doubling over the past year. Projections from international development organizations, including the World Bank, FAO, and World Food Program (WFP), indicate that around 16% of Nigerians will experience severe hunger in 2024 due to the ongoing food crisis.

The post Farmers Urge FG to Restore Duties on Food Importation Immediately appeared first on The Bureau Newspaper.

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