News

Nigeria Seeks to Become Food Exporter

Vendors display their vegetables for sell but complain of low patronage because of hike in pump price that has affected cost of food stuff at Mile 12 market in Lagos, Nigeria. (File)
Vendors display their vegetables for sell but complain of low patronage because of hike in pump price that has affected cost of food stuff at Mile 12 market in Lagos, Nigeria. (File)
Heather Murdock

West Africa imports a large amount of the food it consumes, leaving the region vulnerable to volatile international market prices that can cause riots in even the most peaceful countries.  Nigerian officials say there is enough land and farmers for Nigeria to stop importing food and help feed the region.

Food import

Every year, Nigeria spends more than $8.2 billion importing basic foods like sugar, fish and wheat.  

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called the country’s 11-percent increase in food imports this year "unsustainable," and promised to make Nigeria a major food exporter during the next few years.

Member of Parliament Yakubu Umaru Barde says food imports are high because it can be more profitable to import than to grow food. Especially, he says, if you are a well-connected business person that can get a low-interest farming loan, even when you are not farming.

“It is easier, it is more profitable for me to import rice with the loan I took for agric[ulture].  To get my waiver, bring the rice to Nigeria and sell it," said Barde. "It is very easy. It brings more money to me.”

Corruption

Barde says the government’s more than $40 million plan to eliminate rice imports by 2015 could be realistic, if the government can also eliminate corruption in the industry.  

Nigeria is the world’s second-largest rice importer, consuming two-million metric tons of rice per year from countries like China and Thailand. Senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Abuja, Abubakar Kari, says importing any rice to Nigeria at all is unnecessary. 

"Nigeria has the capacity not only to be sufficient in food production, but even to feed the entire West African region," said Kari. "There are so many rice belts in the country that, if encouraged, can produce as much rice as we want."

Kari calls the powerful merchants that control the rice importing industry a “cartel” that floods local markets, forcing small farmers, who are most of the farmers in Nigeria - to abandon commercial prospects. He says the government appears to lack the political will and the capacity to ignore special interests and provide farmers the help they need to commercialize, like fertilizer and irrigation. 

"If the government gets the right focus, can have the necessary political will, it can easily ban the importation of rice, ignore the vested interest of the rice sector and give the necessary incentives to farmers," said Kari.

Food security

The main danger of having large amounts of food staples imported is that it makes food security directly tied to international market prices. In 2008, the United Nations reported riots across Africa after a sharp rise in food prices.  

The United Nations says food prices are dangerously high in the Sahel, the semi-arid region that touches northern Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, northern Senegal and northern Cameroon.

The Sahel is facing a food crisis in which millions of people are expected to go hungry in the coming months.  Analysts say if West African countries produced more food, this kind of crisis could be averted or at least its impact could be reduced.

Officials say home-grown food will create jobs, stabilize food prices and help build a more equitable distribution of wealth. Shehu Sani, the president of Nigeria's Civil Rights Congress, says a drastic reduction of food imports would help the country, but adds that he has heard it all before.

"From 1999, all the governments have made that pledge of stopping the importing of food from either the West or the East or anywhere and they also promised to pump in more money for local farmers to produce more," he said. "But it is very clear that that has never happened.”

Sani says current farming policies in Nigeria tend to benefit the rich and powerful. For elected officials, he adds, it makes implementing new policies harder because these wealthy individuals pay for their campaigns.  

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs