BY CHUKWUMA NWAGBARA OF THE POLITICAL SCIENCE DEPARTMENT, GODFREY OKOYE UNIVERSITY, ENUGU. (B/cast 10/02/17)
Food is one of the essential needs for human existence. The absence of food that nourishes and keeps the body healthy creates anxiety, weakness, illness and even death.
Perhaps it is in recognition of this that many governments place priority in the promotion of food production and standardization of consumable goods.
Regrettably, however, prices of foodstuff in Nigeria have increased astronomically beyond the reach of an average citizen. At present, the price of such foodstuff as rice which use to be a common food in many homes has skyrocketed to the point that it is no longer affordable by low income earners.
The problem has been attributed to the over dependence on imported products at the detriment of the local farmers.
Available records indicate inconsistency in the implementation of government’s policy on food production. Regrettably while policy makers are stilling formulating assumed workable agenda for Nigeria’s rice production, the country’s rice import bills has grown, totaling 2.4 billion dollars within the past three years.
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele, the high import bill has forced the apex bank to ban foreign exchange for the importation of rice and other food items, making such products scarce at the market.
Happily, the commitment of the government and rice producers seem to suggest that Nigerians are keen to meet the challenge posed by the ban by increasing rice production. The bumper harvest expected from the commitment is understandable, considering the fertile and vast hectares of land available in Nigeria.
Happily too, the decision of such industrialists as the Dangote group to go into full commercial agriculture is encouraging. This bold initiative could help take the country back to the good old days when the agricultural sector was the country’s top foreign exchange earner. Positive and promising as this may seem, rice millers, importers and distributors association of Nigeria estimate that 5 million tons of rice was needed to feed Nigerians every year.
The association produces about two million tons of rice, leaving the supply gap of about 3.5million tons to be bridged by importation although this gap can be filled by local rice producers.
Some Nigerian states equally have the capacity to produce rice on commercial quantity. For example, in Anambra state, there is massive investment in agriculture, particularly rice production.
Anambra rice is said to be a first grade and recently emerged the best rice in Africa, beating rice produced in countries like South Africa, Egypt, Ghana, Moroco, Namibia and Cameroun.
Another state with a rice production pedigree is Ebonyi State as Abakaliki rice can be cultivated three times a year and is said to be highly nutritious
It is therefore a thing of joy that the nation is moving in the right direction. Dangote and the Anambra state government and indeed many Nigerians should be encouraged to produce more local rice for the country and end foreign importation which cost the nation billions of naira.
POLITICAL SCIENCE DEPT