After one year of closing land borders, President Muhammadu Buhari, Wednesday, announced the reopening of borders across the country, farmers along various value chains, Thursday, reacted over the development as it affects their business.
Some of them who spoke with Vanguard said the reopening of borders will have a negative impact on their business, while others said it will help address the scarcity of feed in the poultry industry, but called for proper monitoring and inspection of food items that come into the country in order to curtail activities of criminals who want to take advantage of reopening of the borders by smuggling arms and prohibited materials and other measures to control the movement of goods and persons.
The Founder and Chief Executive Officer, FarmFund, Joshua Ajisope, said the reopening of borders will affect farmers and agribusiness.
He said, “It is going to affect us truly but we have to continue business.”
“Though government said there are exceptions to rice, poultry and other products but we know they are lip-service”, he stated.
He added that the reopening of borders will lead to crashing the current high price a bag of rice is being sold in the country.
“The truth is that rice will be more affordable for Nigerians as the land borders are now open which legitimize foreign rice.
“Already, the price of paddy rice is crashing which will make our homegrown premium parboiled rice to also come down”, he said.
In another view, the Chairman, Izevbuwa Farm Limited, Chief Patrick Eholor, pointed out as he recalled that the Buhari-led administration closed borders in order to control and curtail smuggling of arms into the country and not just to protect farmers and agribusiness.
Eholor also argued that with border closure, Nigerians still had an abundance of food to eat, which farmers in the country proved themselves as being capable to make Nigeria self-sufficient along various agricultural value chains.
“The issue of border closure came at a time the Nigerian government were encouraging local food production and trying to curtail the menacing negative effects of arm smuggling which posed a serious security problem to the nation.
“I think agro-business did very well while the borders were closed. There was no scarcity of food at any point and Nigerian farmers proved to the world that they can feed the nation when fully supported by government”, he said.
Although, he alluded to the fact that food prices have skyrocketed, but if the tempo of food availability is sustained there is no need to reopen the borders.
“I understand the prices of many food items including that of rice has gone high and it is affecting the country but if we are to sustain our food sufficient efforts, the boarders shouldn’t be open for importation of foods that we can produce. It will affect the morale of our farmers.
Meanwhile, he (Eholor) pointed out that there is need now for reopening of borders following the exorbitant price on poultry feed, which has also led to the scarcity of the input.
“However, reopening of the border can help to address the feed crises facing the poultry industry in Nigeria. There is a scarcity of poultry feed in Nigeria since the borders were closed.
“This has led to inflation of the price of maize and soya beans. Reopening the boarders will help make poultry feed available.
“On the other hand, I think the reopening will cause scarcity of some commodities since most West African countries buy their products from Nigeria. These may lead to scarcity of products and inflation.”
He also expressed worry over the possible increase of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria as most people might cross into the country with the virus.
“There is another issue of controlling the surge in the recent number of Covid-19 cases in the country. Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, and the Ministry of Health should make sure that the reopening of borders does not affect Nigerians.
“Those coming into the country should be properly screened and tested to avoid escalating the number of Covid-19 cases we have.
“Finally, the immigration, custom, police and other security agencies should respect the rights of the citizens and that of other West African countries.
“Citizens should not think our borders are ATMs for them; If it is possible our government should introduce 24 hours surveillance camera to curtail the activities of these corrupt officials”, he cautioned.
Also speaking on the development, Director, Health for Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Arch Nnimmo Bassey, asserted that agribusiness thrives more when there is free movement of goods, therefore called for African governments to promote movement of commodities across borders in order to address food shortages in countries that could experience it.
“Agribusiness and others thrive better in conditions of free movements of goods. It is also politically sensible for African governments to promote easier circulation of foods as a measure of checking regional shortages and halting the spectre of famine in parts of the continent.
“Food is also a great means of continental integration as they are at the culture of living cultures.
However, the HOMEF boss cautioned and raised concern over possible smuggling of Genetically Modified Organisms, GMO, into the country with reopening of borders.
“The only major drawback is could see here is the possibility of easy trans-border movement of Genetically Modified Organisms, GMO, as these would cause rapid biodiversity losses and weaken continental biosecurity.
“In the whole there is wisdom in having strict border controls to keep out dangerous or harmful items rather than blanket closure of borders”, he stated.