Soil association reacts to forex restriction on food importation

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The Soil Science Society of Nigeria (SSSN) says the outright banning of food importation will lead to inflation and further impoverish the masses.

Prof. Bashir Raji, the President of the society said this while reacting to the recent pronouncement of President Muhammadu Buhari, that Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should not to give “a cent’’ to importation of food.

He described the move as “a right policy, right timing but wrong approach.’’

Raji, who emphasised that the policy would be good if properly articulated, however, advised that the president should put into consideration the nation’s food production as well as consumption.

The don specifically noted that the country required about eight million tonnes of rice annually, adding that “currently the country is producing just about 3.7million tonnes.’’

“With the outright ban there is no way the country can meet up with the required 50 per cent in one year,’’ he said.

He suggested that the Federal Government embark on the ban gradually over the next five years putting in place incentives and measurable targets to ensure that the 50 per cent shortfall was met during the period.

“But now the way was going, definitely there will be a lot of inflation, there will be high prices and considering the economy at the moment a lot of people will suffer.

“The president must have been fed the impression that because of the drop in the importation of rice through our ports, the rice we consumed in this country is produce locally which is not true.

“There is a lot of increase in the production of rice locally but there has been increasing smuggling from neighbouring countries which eventually ends up in Nigeria to complement what is produce locally.

“The policy if properly articulated will be beneficial on the long run but is quite clear that we still rely a lot on importation of food and outright banning is likely to bring about inflation.

“It will also bring about pressure on the black or parallel foreign exchange market and high cost of food, especially rice.

“We don’t import yam, we don’t import cassava, beans and we don’t actually import most of our staple food; the ones we import are basically rice maybe wheat, milk, sugar and some of the exotic foods.

“Unless we can produce one and a half times what we required, it will not be a good decision to ban outright importation of food, especially now that a lot of people are suffering economically,” Raji said.

Raji pledged the readiness of the society to work with the Federal Government to ensure that land degradation and climate change mitigation safeguards were put in place following the envisaged massive farming activities the policy might generate.