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Nigeria wants to meet the challenge of food insecurity

03.09.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
The most populous country on the African continent is determined to achieve food self-sufficiency. With an estimated population of 200 million, Nigeria is still unfortunately dependent on food imports to feed its inhabitants. For the Buhari government, boosting domestic agricultural production requires imperatively reducing imports. An approach that promises to be difficult because the African giant which ranks 52nd among importing countries still depends on deliveries from outside commodities such as wheat, rice and milk powder. Through this initiative the government does not only intend to encourage local production but to reduce the cost of imports costs to millions of dollars a year.

Agriculture, a dynamic sector

Nigeria has considerable enviable agricultural potential. In an economic context dominated by the dynamism of hydrocarbons, agriculture, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the country’s GDP, remains one of the key and decisive sectors for the economy. The growth of Nigerian agriculture is explained by many advantages linked to the extent of its arable land and its ecosystem, which allows it to produce diversified products.

In the south, Nigeria has a subtropical climate that favors increased production of rice, plantain, maize and pulses. The central Sudanese zone is experiencing abundant production of yams, maize, cassava, millet, sorghum and legumes. To the north in the Sahelian zone, Nigeria is experiencing a dominant cereal production, notably rice, sorghum, millet, but also legumes, peanuts and onions. In addition to its favorable ecosystem, the country has rainfall ranging from 3000 m in the south to 500 m in the northern part. Nigeria also has large tracts of arable land and high water availability.

The country that has made farming a major lever of its economy is the largest agricultural producer in West Africa. Food production, which is constantly growing, also makes it the West African leader in the cultivation of products for self-consumption. The production of tubers such as Taro, yam, plantain and sweet potato has increased sharply over the last decade thanks to an extension of the areas intended for agriculture. The improvement in yields due to the extension of the areas allocated to agriculture also boost the production of cereals such as millet and sorghum. The country led by Muhamadu Buahari alone accounts for 50% of West African cereal production.

Despite these results, demand in Nigeria remains high due to urbanization, population growth, outward export, and the needs of a local industry increasingly turned towards processing.

President Buhari wants a new agricultural policy

Despite having a dynamic agricultural production that makes it the breadbasket of West Africa, Nigeria under the Buhari era wants to reduce its dependence on imported product by adopting a new commercial and fiscal agricultural policy. On the occasion of the 56th anniversary of the country’s independence, the former general announced in 2018 that he wanted his country to achieve food self-sufficiency by 2019. In the field this bet according to many studies is on the way to be won. In sectors such as cereal production, Nigeria, which is moving towards an annual production estimated at 11 million tons of maize, is poised to dethrone South Africa’s leading maize crop in Africa.

Initiator of a protectionist economic policy, President Buhari, after having banned the importation of rice to propel the local production of this commodity, demanded that the central bank stop giving foreign currency to importers of agricultural products, particularly those of the dairy sector. The head of state, who dreams of a sovereign and self-sufficient country in terms of food, wishes to reduce the high cost of funds for the purchase of products coming from outside and which has an envelope annual estimated $ 1.5 billion. The world’s second-largest importer of rice after China, Nigeria is also ranked second among countries in Africa importing milk powder. Restricting imports of dairy products and rice remains, according to many economists and associations, a high-risk measure for food security.

Buahri’s reforms are applauded by some other observers, however, with reservations and concern that local production is not yet in a position to meet demand in the market. Nigerian economists are not entirely against Nigerian economists’ promotion of a lack of fertilizer, seeds and infrastructure, which could be a serious handicap after the total loss of agro-food imports. Among the proposals made to the President to delay, they evoke the accompaniment of farmers by subsidies and support measures or a gradual implementation of the ban on imports to prevent an explosion of smuggling whose consequences on the economic plan are not ignored.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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