Most Nigerians are on the same page with President Muhammadu Buhari on the disturbing rising inflation and sudden spiral increase of food prices at a time when the economy is already mired in a slowdown occasioned by the global coronavirus. Only the doubting Thomases mischievously think and believe otherwise.
Times without number, President Buhari has emphasised that agriculture remains the bedrock and cornerstone of his administration. Concerned with the current difficult times Nigerians are going through daily, President Buhari has assured all Nigerians that the situation is transient, noting that his administration had already began looking and putting in place measures to ameliorate the situation.
“This year has indeed tested us in ways that globalization has never been tested before since the turn of the century. These challenges have disrupted lives and supply chains all over the world, and Nigeria has not been spared”, PMB’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said.
It is, therefore, not in doubt that the current high cost of foodstuff and general high cost of living has been worsened by the speculative activities of a number of rice processors who are ready to pay for paddy rice at any price to keep their mills running non stop coupled with the activities of “corrupt” middlemen, many of whom are foreigners and other unpatriotic food traders who serve as link between farmers and consumers found to be systematically creating an artificial scarcity.
“In dealing with these problems, the administration has, in line with its ease of doing business mantra, avoided imposing stockholding restrictions in order not to discourage investments in modern warehousing and cold storage,” Garba added.
To bring succour to Nigerians, President Buhari approved the release of food items from the strategic grains reserves across the country including 30,000 tons of maize to animal feeds producers to ease the high cost of poultry production, assuring that with the Buhari administration raising some issues with the various food producer associations, the high food prices should soon be a thing of the past.
Government assured that investments in the agro-allied sector by the private sector will significantly increase domestic production of farming inputs, especially fertiliser, further crash prices, create employment and ease the pressure on our foreign reserves.President Buhari also directed that key government agencies and policy makers remain focused on removing impediments to the production and free movement of agricultural produce in the country.
To demonstrate his resolve to get Nigeria out of the current doldrums largely brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, he has since directed the minister of finance, governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, and all other relevant agencies to ensure speedy and timely release of funds to Ministries, Departments and Agencies for implementation of the N2.3 trillion Economic Sustainability Plan & Capital Projects in the 2020 budget with despatch. As part of the Economic Sustainability Plan Stimulus Programme, the federal government has launched a $75 bn survival fund to support micro, small and medium enterprises, MSMEs, across the country.
Reacting to the situation and current government efforts to ameliorate the suffering of Nigerians in a statement signed by Buhari Media Organisation’s Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, noted that “these increases in prices of foodstuff were reflective of the global economic downturn, expressing the hope that Nigeria would soon find its feet and all these would be history.
“The global economy has been badly hit by the effects of the pandemic. With the disruption of supply chains, the prices of food has gone high across the world. The Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO, had in fact highlighted that across the world, the prices of food had risen for the third consecutive month in August. BMO noted that this was as a result of a weaker dollar and higher demand in Nigeria.
It is very encouraging that the pledge by Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN, to produce over five million metric tonnes of rice during the dry season farming will go a long way in softening the situation, thus making life more meaningful and for all and sundry. In expressing his contentment with efforts so far by government, President Buhari said the “Covid-19 pandemic exposed the level of preparedness of nations to shocks of food security, explaining that the federal government’s wisdom in promoting self sufficiency over the years helped significantly in averting a food crisis.”
He said the last five years have recorded notable achievements despite decline in GDP by 6.1 per cent in Q2 of 2020 as a direct result of coronavirus, the agricultural sector continued to grow because of government’s targeted policies. President Buhari directed the CBN not to issue foreign exchange for fertiliser import or any food item. Nigeria currently has more than 33 operattional fetiliser blending plants.
This is PMB’s further attempt to boost agricultural development of the country to which he has committed himself to doing in his remaining years in office. The president has always reiterated that Nigerians must “produce what they eat”. It is on record that the PMB administration has invested in building strategic grain reserves in recent years which it recently released significant quantities to cushion the adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic to vulnerable households. We have seen evidently how Nigeria has weathered through the storm despite proactive efforts by government to contain the spread of Covid-19 that has ravaged the country. All patriotic Nigerians have resolved to support the PMB administration to make agriculture a cardinal objective of his government realisable.
Ilallah writes from Emeka Anyaoku Street, Maitama, Abuja via [email protected]