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.”


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.
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs