Reps flay $10b annual food imports, neglect of agric
The House of Representatives yesterday decried the country’s over-dependence on importation of food items, which has been estimated to cost over $10 billion annually.
Its House Committee on Agricultural Colleges and Institutions raised the concern at a public hearing on three bills.They are: a bill are for an Act to amend the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria Act, a bill for an Act to establish the Universities of Veterinary Teaching Hospital and a bill for an Act to establish Nigerian Agricultural Associations.
The committee canvassed the need for a deliberate policy aimed at repositioning the agricultural sector to ensure food sufficiency in the country. Chairman of the Committee, Linus Okorie blamed underfunding for the many challenges of the agricultural sector.
His words: “Agriculture remains an important sector of the Nigerian economy with the highest employment generation potential, food security, self-sufficiency and poverty reduction.
“With about 84 million hectares of arable land available for cultivation, 263 billion cubic meters of water bodies, including two of the largest rivers in Africa, a large supply of cheap labour and a huge market population of approximately 183 million people, Nigeria is endowed with everything required for self-sufficiency and food security.
“Regrettably, however, despite the huge potential, we remain unable to feed ourselves and translate the sector into prosperity for the people due to decades of misplaced priority and primitive farming practices that have failed to positive results.”
He lamented that Malaysia, which obtained oil palm seedlings from Nigeria in the 1960s now exports palm oil to the United States of America (U.S.A.) and generates over $20 billion annually from palm oil.
He also pointed out that the U.S., China and Argentina have all displaced Nigeria as the world largest producer of groundnuts, while Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana now lead us in Cocoa production, adding: “Effectively, we are a net food importing nation, spending over $10 billion annually on food imports.”
He noted that the ARCN amendment bill seeks to establish Agricultural Development and Extension Fund to be funded through one per cent of the duties collected on agricultural imports and exports and a levy of one per cent of the profit before tax of companies that have a turnover of N100 million and above, among other provisions.