Despite the acclaimed diversification into agriculture by this present administration, investigations revealed that some products like rice, maize are still being imported by big companies into the country.
Stakeholders in the sector have kicked against the trend, saying that unchecked importation of crops where the country has advantage might jeopardise the labour of local farmers in the drive for self sufficiency in food production.
With about 82 million hectares of arable land suitable for maize, stakeholders have raised questions on the rationale for continued importation of these products by some organisations rather than partnership with local farmers to boost the present production capacity in the country.
States like: Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Borno, Niger, Kebbi, Kaduna, Adamawa, Yobe, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa, and Gombe States are the major producers of the commodity.
Adeola Elliott, former Chairman Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Agric and Agro Allied Group, attributed the rising trend and preference to lack of synergy among MDAs, saying that they are all working at cross purposes.
He said the refusal by the government to embrace the subsidy regimes for agro-produce is inimical to global price competition and that some companies import some produce as intermediate raw materials and not really as edibles.
Elliott, however, urged the government to address agriculture holistically through intelligent, fiscal and monetary policies to create global market evenness, saying that anything contrary to this will sustain the domination of the agric-business by multinational organisations operating in Nigeria.
“The reasons for persistent importation can be attributed to lack of synergy among MDAs. They are all working at cross purposes. The government refusal to operate subsidy regimes for agro-produce is inimical to global price competition.
Dr. Victor Iyama, National President, Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria (FACAN) said it is very sad that this is one areas that calls for concern.
According to him as far as the association is concerned, the country and its citizens have no reason importing maize because it is one product where the Nigeria experiences glut in yields.
“It is very sad, that is one area that calls for concern, as far as we are concerned we don’t see any reason why we should be importing maize because we grow maize here in Nigeria. It is very ridiculous as far as we are concerned; that is one area that we experience glut and I don’t see any reason why they should be importing maize,”
Iyama said if the country continues to encourage its own the nation will surely get there someday.
Observing that though a number of farmers were affected by army worm infestation, Iyama stated as part of the challenges farmer encounter it was not enough reason to embrace importation of maize into the country with reckless abandonment.
Emmanuel Ijewere, Coordinator Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) who promised to verify newspaper reports indicting Olam of importation of rice and maize, saying that such moves must be in connivance with the law enforcement agencies.
“Olam is a company that is actually investing a lot into Nigerian villages and I see them to be proactive in Nigeria so I find it difficult to believe that Olam will be doing something to impact negatively on the Nigerian farmers,” he said.
However, responding to this issue, Audu Ogbeh Minister of Agriculture assured that government was already looking into the issue and that it will be appropriately dealt with.
“Rice farmers are selling a ton of paddy two years ago at N65,000 they moved to N150, 000. We gave them a lot of support and we told them that the N150,000 is very expensive that they can do well with N120,000 and still make profit because if your output is too expensive for the millers to buy your products. In the end, you will get stock with your rice and they will not be able to feel the gap.
He accused maize farmers of prolonged storage till a period prices will rise to N140,000 per ton in defiance of government’s directive to sell, saying that such was responsible for the gradual loss in the poultry industry.
Ogbeh said; “we know what is fair for the farmers to make profit, we have reduced interest rate to nine per cent; we are supplying them fertilisers and chemicals as we can, so if government is giving them that level of support they should not be too expensive because if they do the poultry farmers can’t afford the maize at that price.
“Maize is not yet banned, but as we are trying to discourage importation we must also not upset the World Trade Organisation because they will sue us, they will make us pay fines.
“The answer is for farmers and buyers to be reasonable so that we can arrive at a certain price which will make everybody happy, so we avoid importation, we don’t like importation especially when local farmers can produce but we are holding meetings with them shortly both the rice and the maize farmers,” he said.
Meanwhile, commercial farmers under the aegis of the Nigerian Farmers Group and Cooperative Society (NFGCS) has called on the Federal Government to probe Nigeria Customs Service and other agencies at the seaport over allegation of the importation of seven ship-loads of maize from India by Olam Group.
The farmers group while speaking through its National Coordinator, Redson Tedheke, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate how such huge amount of imported grain would be allowed into the country when such can be produced in the country.
According to him, “The current price of maize in Nigeria is between N130,000 and N250,000 per ton for local production. We gathered that the current landing cost of the maize imported by Olam is N40,000/ton. But our fear is that the action will spell doom for farmers who are constrained by funding, lack of capacity of government agencies and the continuing war against army worms in the current farming season,” he added.
NBMA Raises Alarm On Imported GM Maize
Meanwhile, the National Bio-safety Management Agency (NBMA), has alerted Nigerians on tons of genetically modified (GM) Maize imported into the country without necessary approvals.
Dr. Rufus Ebegba, the NBMA Director General/CEO, who disclosed this while addressing newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday said Agency got notice of the importation through an intelligence report and has set in motion necessary machineries to track the importers and bring them to book.
“The NBMA got an intelligence report on the importation of GM Maize into the country. We have no application from anyone on this and we are not aware of any move to bring in this maize. The NBMA Act 2015 has stipulated steps and procedures for the importation, production and processing of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the country and we will ensure that the act is strictly followed,” Dr. Ebegba said
He urged the general public not to panic as the Agency would never compromise on its mandate of ensuring that the safety of Nigerians and the environment was topmost in its dealings.
Emphasising that with an already existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the NBMA and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), the products would not be allowed into the country without adherence to due diligence.
He said that the Agency was empowered by law to carry out a risk assessment of the imported product before it will be allowed into the country to ensure that it is safe.