A Senior Agricultural Economist, World Bank Office, Abuja, Dr Adetunji Oredipe, has advised the federal and state governments to go back to the basics instead of dissipating energy on Ruga programme that continues to divide the country along tribal and ethnic lines.
He spoke as a guest speaker at a public lecture organised by Mr Olumakinde Oni-led Ibadan Recreation Club, marking the 100 days of the new executives in office, on Saturday. Oredipe, in his presentation entitled ‘Food security and national development,’ recalled that the neglect of the agricultural sector was Nigeria’s greatest undoing over the last decades because of oil boom.
He said, “Nigeria became dependent on oil and that has been a disaster for the country. If Nigeria had held to its market share in palm oil, cocoa, groundnut and cotton, it would be earning at least $10bn per year from these commodities.” He said Nigeria had remained one of the largest food importers in the world because “it spent over $1.7bn per year on imports of wheat, rice, sugar and fish.
“As at 2016, Nigeria spent $965m on import of wheat, $39.7m on import of rice, $100.2m on sugar imports and with all the marine resources, rivers, lakes and creeks we are blessed with, Nigeria spent $655m importing fish. “This is not fiscally, economically or politically sustainable. Nigeria is leaving in borrowed time. While we all smile as we eat rice every day, Nigerian rice farmers are daily retrogressing because the import of these commodities undermines domestic production.
“As Nigeria imports food from the global market, with rising world food prices, all it is doing is importing inflation. At the same time, low productivity of our domestic production systems increases the price of our staple crops. “Together, these two factors lead to high domestic food prices. Our poor urban and rural households spend 70-80 per cent of their incomes on food and as a result, life has become unbearable for many.
“Nigeria can no longer continue to depend on expensive food imports nor can we continue to rely on volatile global markets, to meet our food requirements,” Oredipe remarked.” PUNCH