Govt efforts failing as food imports rise 122%, deficit hits N4.9trn

Despite continuous government efforts to shore up food production in Nigeria through various intervention programmes, the country recorded foods trade deficit worth N4.92 trillion between 2018 and 2022.

Available data shows that Nigeria is not growing enough food for the populace, leaving the country with no option but to import.

Consequently, to feed its steadily rising population, the country recorded a 121.7 percent increase in the value of imported foods within the 5 year period, rising to N1.9 trillion in 2022 from N857 billion in 2018.

The development may not be unconnected with the heightening of insecurity in the country especially around the agricultural belt, which has forced many farmers to abandon their farmlands, thus prompting the government to spend millions of dollars importing food annually.

Data obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) revealed that the total agricultural imports into Nigeria from 2018 to 2022 amounted to N6.916 trillion while total agricultural exports from the country within the period was N1.997 trillion, resulting in an agricultural trade deficit of N4.919 trillion.

The data also show that there have been steady increases in agricultural imports into the country since 2018 which recorded N857 billion imports; and rose to N959 billion in 2019; N1.2 trillion in 2020; N2 trillion in 2021; before a moderate decline to N1.9 trillion in 2022.

However, within the same period, agricultural exports from the country amounted to N302 billion in 2018; N270 billion in 2019; N322 billion in 2020; N505 billion in 2021; and N598 billion in 2022, indicating a rise of 98 percent from 2018 to 2022.

Some analysts have attributed the increases seen in exports to the aggressive non-oil export promotion programme of the government rather than increased output, a development which they see as counter-productive to the nation’s food security.

A related report by the NBS also indicated that the downturn in food production in the country may not be attributable to the impact of insecurity alone.

The report indicated that prices of key farming inputs such as seeds, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and agro machinery rose sharply within the period, making it increasingly hard for farmers to expand their production and forcing many to cut down on production.

The various interventions by the federal government through the agencies appear to have done little to address the situation.

N1.08trn disbursed on anchor borrowers program
The federal government has over the years spent billions of dollars on various agricultural programmes to spur local food production.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), earlier in this year, said that apex bank has disbursed a cumulative amount of N1.08 trillion to farmers through the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) in the last seven years, between 2015 and 2022.

The bank further noted that between January and February 2023, CBN disbursed N12.65 billion to three agricultural projects under the programme.

ABP was launched in November 2015 in an effort to boost agricultural production, improve foreign exchange earnings and reverse Nigeria’s negative balance of trade on food.

This is beside other schemes such as the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS) and Accelerated Agricultural Development programme, amongst others, all designed to boost the nation’s food production.

According to analysts, these programmes, in addition to the ABP, have been valued at over N3.0 trillion over the years.

However, there is still no significant impact as the country still has a huge supply gap in most of its staple foods, even as the population growth rate continues to soar.

Although agriculture contributes 22 percent of Nigeria’s total GDP and employs over 80 percent of the population, smallholder farmers who are responsible for 90 percent of food production in Nigeria lack the resources to improve their productivity.

Analysts attribute this situation to the operating environment characterised by low productivity, high post-harvest losses, low-value addition, fragmented markets, and inefficient value chain logistics.

More active govt intervention in agriculture required — CPPE
Giving some insight into the situation, Chief Executive Officer, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), Dr. Muda Yusuf, said more active government intervention is required in agricultural inputs, adding that improvement in the security situation would surely boost performance of the sector.

His words: “Rising food import bill is extremely worrisome, especially for a country so richly blessed with arable land and numerous other natural resources.

“The basic problem is governance. Over the years, especially since the seventies, we have not instituted effective policies and programmes to promote investment in agriculture.

“There was practically no subsidy for agriculture for several years, whereas even in the advanced countries, billions of dollars are committed to subsidising agriculture.

”We need active government intervention with regards to agricultural inputs, technology adaptation, financing, processing, marketing, logistics, access to land and storage.

“There is a need to improve the efficiency in the entire agricultural value chain – production, processing, transportation, preservation, packaging, etc.

“It is impossible for the private sector to provide these support systems. These support systems existed in Nigeria before the incursion of the military into political governance in 1966.

“An improvement in the security situation would surely boost performance of the sector. This would impact job creation and food security in the country.”

Has negative implication for value of Naira – NACCIMA
Engaging with Financial Vanguard on the situation, Director General, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Sola Obadimu, attributed the increasing dependence on food imports on “insecurity, depreciating infrastructure, lack of power/preservation facilities for locally produced agricultural products, etc,”

On the implication for the economy, especially the value of the Naira, Obadimu stated: “Naira will apparently continue to lose value.

“As I’ve said several times, if we want to strengthen the Naira, we have to export more than we import, demonstrate discipline and commitment to consumption of locally available products, and lessen our unnecessary tastes for imported luxurious items.

“Yes, we need to eliminate corruption surrounding the opaque fuel subsidy system as well as the dual forex rates. Also, it is true that people pay more for fuel and utilities elsewhere. However, we have to remember that, in those climes, infrastructure is far better and industries wouldn’t have to worry so much about bad roads, insecurity/kidnapping threats, insufficient public power supply, etc.

“It behoves us, therefore, to lessen unnecessary expenses on the different arms of government and upscale the quality of our infrastructure to an appreciable level to justify our full adoption of liberal market forces.”

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