Nigeria still depends on food imports despite border closures, halting forex provision

NIGERIA – The Nigerian government spent N1.85 trillion (US$4.85m) on food imports in the first nine months of 2020, a 62% increase from the corresponding period in 2019, despite the country closing its land borders and halting provision of forex for food imports.

This was disclosed by the Chairman of the presidential economic advisory council, Doyin Salami at the 2021 National Economic Outlook event organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, reports Premium Times.

Nigeria closed its land border in August 2019 to the movement of goods due to massive smuggling activities especially of rice that threatened the attainment of self-sufficiency in production of agricultural commodities.

In the maize sector, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) blocked access to foreign exchange for maize imports mid last year in a bid to boost local production, stimulate a rapid economic recovery, safeguard rural livelihoods, and increase jobs which were lost as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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“This suggests a weakness in our ability to feed ourselves and raises the need to consider review of intervention policies in agriculture.”

Chairman of the presidential economic advisory council – Doyin Salami

However later on CBN approved four companies to import 262,000 tons of maize in the country from August to October 2020, to offset the shortage witnessed which led to rise in price of the commodity and animal feeds.

Despite all the efforts to reduce the country’s import bill and boost local production, Salami has indicated that, “This suggests a weakness in our ability to feed ourselves and raises the need to consider review of intervention policies in agriculture.”

According to him, serious climatic concerns are undermining agricultural output with 2.5 million farmers being impacted by flooding in 2019.

“Agriculture continues to decelerate growing at 1.7 per cent year to date while consumer sensitive sectors like manufacturing and distribution continue to contract in double digits,” he said.

Other than dwindling productivity, the country is faced with widespread economic vulnerabilities and the recent COVID-19 shocks.

“Ahead of the crisis, the Nigerian economy was contending with a set of pre-existing conditions such as macro instability, stagflation – slow growth and rising inflation, pressure on households – in the form of rising inflation, unemployment, and poverty and pressure on corporate(s) margins – weak consumer and cost pressures,” Mr Salami said.

Egypt food industries exports marginally grew

In other related news, Egypt’s annual exports of food industries increased by 1% during the first 11 months of 2020, earning US$3.2 billion.

Arab countries topped the list of the most important international market, with a value of US$ 1.72 billion, representing 54 percent of total food exports during the period under review.

The European Union came second importing goods worth US$448 million representing 14 percent of total exports, followed by non-Arab African countries with a value of US$ 368 million, representing 12 percent of total exports.

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