Proactiveness from the corridor of policy makers within the nation’s agricultural sector is sacrosanct if the recent revelation by Malam Gaba Shehu, on the imminent shortage of grains in the country is anything to go by.
Malam Shehu, a Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, while granting a radio interview on Monday, November 14, 2016, in Kano State, told Pyramid Radio, that, the “huge demand for our grains in the global market is creating an excellent environment for the mindless export of Nigerian grains across our borders and unless this is curtailed, Nigerian markets will be bereft of food by January, next year.
Also, the Ministry of Agriculture has advised the President on the need to draw the attention of all Nigerians to the issue which, if not addressed promptly, could lead to a shortage of grains in Nigeria by January, 2017.
“Over the past year, Nigeria has been blessed with a bountiful harvest of grains, more than enough to feed the country and to export to other countries. At present, there is a high demand for grains from our dear country, from other African nations as distant as Libya, Algeria, and from places as far away as Brazil. “However, the ministry of agriculture has raised concerns about a massive rate of exportation, which could lead to shortage of grains in Nigeria by January,” Malam Garba said.
The forecast by Malam Garba can be averted with flexible and inward looking policies put in place, not necessarily a total restriction on grain exportation.
Governments in some exporting countries have in the past imposed restrictions on the sale abroad of domestically produced agricultural output. These measures assume many forms, such as export quotas, prohibitive export taxes, or outright bans. For example, China levied an export tax on grains and India suspended wheat exports in 2007.
Although export restrictions are generally implemented in the name of domestic food security; however, they rarely achieve the intended objectives. The resulting distortions in agricultural markets usually produce a range of adverse and sometimes unintended consequences for the domestic economy. Some effects occur right away, such as lower incomes for domestic farmers, who are forced to sell their crops for lower prices to the local market. Some take longer, such as the disincentive for farmers to cultivate additional acreage and make investments in seeds, fertilizer, and irrigation. In some cases, farmers may even decide to cut back domestic food production despite global food shortages.
All of these scenarios, over time, harm local consumers. In addition, many countries who cut agricultural exports suffer long-term loss of foreign markets, as importing countries look to what they consider most reliable suppliers. At the same time, higher prices abroad can induce farmers in other regions to plant more, cutting into the markets of those countries whose export barriers exacerbated the initial food-price spike.
Since the level of food availability for local consumption and export is directly proportional to the degree of food produced, hence, increasing our grain output is inevitable and has become germane if we are to meet global market demands without endangering its availability locally.
We strongly advise the federal government to take advantage of the situation and tilt towards improving the nation’s current grain production capacity. This will not only solidify our position as major producer of grains globally, but also facilitate our economic diversification quest with increase in thenation’s GDP, while ensuring the availability of grains for local consumption.
Naturally, cereals and grains production potential varies across countries, dependent on natural factors (including climate, soils, water, food species, and pests) and cultural factors (including technology and investment strategies). Having gotten the natural factors, we can consolidate on our agricultural potentials provided we can fine tune ourcultural factors.
Government should also as a matter of urgency fund, revive, re-engineer and reposition all relevant government agencies established for the purpose of improved grains production in Nigeria, like the National Cereals Research Institute in Niger State, for global competitiveness.
by Adeyemi Bmidele Ezekiel