Replenishing strategic grain reserves will cushion effect of food scarcity – Expert

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As many Nigerians continue to groan under the current food inflation which stands at 17.38 percent, an expert has advised the Federal Government to replenish strategic grain reserves so as to cushion the effect of food scarcity in the country.

Speaking against the backdrop that Nigerians are now suffering the crunch of food inflation in the midst of a recession, Dogo Muhammed, managing director of Gouria Rice, told BusinessDay that dry season farming of rice and maize should be facilitated immediately so that by June 2921 there would be enough grains to feed the nation.

Muhammed said if there could be three cropping cycles of rice, maize and sorghum annually, the issue of food security would be properly addressed.

He was of the view that hoarding of foodstuff by middlemen was what created food scarcity in the country and therefore called on government at all levels to gather enough intelligence in unravelling warehouses where foodstuffs were unfairly stocked so that people could have access to such places.

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The rice farmer said so long as the country encourages importation of services and finished goods/products into the country, it was importing poverty and unemployment.

He pointed out that such collateral damage would further deepen and perpetuate the slide into severe recession with more serious consequences of insecurity and instability.

Muhammed said he did not see Nigeria recovering from the recession in the Q4 2020. He however expressed optimism that if Federal Government would continue to roll out other interventions, it could cushion the effects of the recession in the Q4 of 2020 and Q1 of 2021.

“Nigeria’s economy sliding into recession is largely due to the global effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and Nigeria cannot be an island. Another reason is the sharp fall and continues unpredictable prices of crude oil globally,” Muhammed said.

“Naturally, I don’t see Nigeria recovering from the recession in the Q4 of 2020. Even though Nigeria is the fastest growing economy on the continent, there is a second wave of Covid-19 round the world.

“SMEs are part and parcel of the formal sector of the economy however, the palliatives that the FG is rolling out and other interventions could cushion the effects of the recession in the Q4 of 2020 and Q1 of 2021.

“Hoarding of foodstuff by middle men created the scarcity and the law of demand and supply came into play. The government at all levels must, as a matter of urgency, gather enough intelligence and get those warehouses where foodstuffs are unfairly stocked to get them released for the populace to have access to it.

“Also strategic grain reserves must be replenished immediately as we are at the pick harvest season. Dry season farming of rice and maize must be facilitated immediately and all inputs must be with farmers before February 2021, when the weather will warm and conducive for farming. By June, there will be enough grains to feed the nation and the rains will start another cycle of cultivation.

“I believe if we could have three cropping cycles of rice, maize and sorghum annually, the issue of food security will be properly addressed.

“Necessity is the mother of invention. I believe as our borders remain closed, many people will mobilize to the farms and we will be able to grow what to eat and even declare surplus for export to our neighbors and beyond. So we can produce what we want to eat.

“Moreover, a lot of this hullabaloo on recession has a lot to do with the formal sector. You just need to take a ride up and down the country, you will see the kind of commercial activities taking place in the informal sector of the economy. One wonders if we have two different/parallel (opposite) statistics on the economy in the country.

“We all knew Nigeria recovered from the 2016 recession until recently when it bounced back due to the reasons mentioned earlier in this submission.

“We have to persevere along the line we have started since the closure of the borders. We cannot afford to have a policy summersault simply because there is another slide back into recession for the last two consecutive quarters. We cannot afford to get into reverse gear as with that we will loose all the gains we had. We must sacrifice and bear a short term inconvenience for a more everlasting prosperity.

“Remember as we encourage importation of services and finished goods/products into the country we are at the same time importing poverty and unemployment. Such collateral damages will deepen and perpetuate our slide into severe recession with more serious attended consequences of insecurity, instability and bleak future; we cannot afford that now,” he said.

On border closure, he maintained that they should still remain closed pending when the country attains food sufficiency.

The rice farmer lamented that porous border had caused lots of collateral damages to Nigeria’s economy, adding that there was need for intra/inter-agency collaboration to adequately manned the borders.

“No, not now. Borders must remain closed till we achieve our strategic economic and security goals that made us to close them in the first place,” Muhammed said.

“There have been a lot of collateral damages to our economy by having these porous borders where Nigeria became a damping ground for all sorts of products that ordinarily we should be manufacturing to the extent that we landed into being a consumer nation instead of being self sufficient in what we consume and even become net exporters of goods and services. We must avoid creating poverty and unemployment in the country.

“The porosity and expanse of our borders cannot be adequately manned by customs services alone. The need for all Nigerians to be conscious of our duty to contribute in intelligence gathering and passing such information to appropriate authority will go a long way towards achieving our set economic and security goals.

“In addition, intra/inter-agency collaboration will contribute immensely towards attaining cohesion and synergy in combating activities that are inimical to our national interests, food security inclusive. In a nutshell, all hands must be on deck to tackle such issues,” he said.