Indications have emerged that the Federal Government has not released the 20 strategic national grain reserves that were leased to private sector operators over one year after they paid for the lease.
It will be recalled that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the lease of 20 of the 33 silos at the cost of $17 million (N6 billion) in 2019.
The chairman of Ebony Agro, Mr Charles Ugwuh, disclosed that the silo complexes were yet to be released to any of the 13 companies that leased them from the Federal Government.
“Since 2014, they have been working on it. They gave us certificates last year, 2019, but so far, they are yet to hand them over. The major thing is for people to plant as much as they can,” her said.
He added that Nigeria does not have enough food, and transporting the food from one state to the other is nearly impossible because the country has depended too much on China and Thailand. At the moment, the situation is very dicey.
“The CBN is supposed to provide funds for them so that they can buy from farmers once the silos are made available. They would be able to access the funds and then buy from farmers. This would, in turn, enhance economic growth because if we have N2 billion to buy from farmers, they would be able to go back to the farm and produce more foods.
“Although it’s a good concept, it has not been well implemented. Audu, Ogbeh did all the documentation and handed over to the new minister, but when the new minister came, he wants to go back to all the documentation. So, the delay is from the new minister,” he added.
If the silos were working, he lamented, the country would have been able to stockpile maize and paddies, among other grains, but with the situation, he added, “we need to rethink our survival strategy. We need to produce all our crops in the country. There is a lot more to be done.”
He pointed out that depending on the size, his company has about N100 billion tied down in the transaction for the silo and 25,000 tonnes of grains.
“We have done all the documentation, insurance cover and what have you. What remains is for the silos to be released to us so that we can begin to stockpile produce,” he disclosed.
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Sahara Farms, Mr Sulaiman Dikwa, disclosed that the country had about 311,000 tonnes of grains in about 13 silo complexes across the country, which are insufficient for about N200 million people.
“We are currently at the peak of the dry season, and farmers are about to commence planting. This means they would have sold out most of their stocks. I am not sure there are enough foods in the country currently,” he bemoaned.