Chris Steven, Abuja
The Presidency has warned that Nigeria risks severe famine from early next year, following huge export of cereals and grains to other countries where demand is high.
Nigeria is currently rated Africa’s largest producer of cereals and grains but market forces at the global market are mopping up the country’s surplus grain production.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity,Garnba Shehu gave the grim forecast in a local radio interview in Kano on Monday.
He said the huge demand for Nigerian grains in the global market was creating an excellent environment for the mindless export of Nigerian grains across borders and unless this is curtailed, the local markets will be bereft of food by January next year.”
The presidential spokesman said the Ministry of Agriculture has advised the President on the need to draw the attention of all Nigerians to this issue which, if not addressed promptly, could lead to a shortage of grains in our country by January.
“Over the past year, providence has blessed Nigeria with a bountiful harvest of grains, more than enough to feed the country and to export to other countries. At present, there is a high demand for grains from Nigeria, from African countries as distant as Libya and Algeria, and from places as far away as Brazil.
However, the ministry of agriculture has raised concerns about a massive rate of exportation, which could lead to a shortage of grains in Nigeria by January,” Shehu said.
He explained that Nigeria currently enjoys a free market situation but that President Muhammadu Buhari was not in any way opposed to or intent on tampering with that.
On the other hand, exporters also have a moral obligation to make their produce available to Nigerians who live within our country’s borders, to ensure that our citizens have access to food.
Shehu said the ministry of agriculture has estimated that no fewer than 500 trucks laden with grain leave Nigerian markets every week, headed for countries outside our borders.
He explained that the major markets involved in the exportation racket are: the Dawanau market in Kano, Naigatari in Jigawa, Bama in Borno, and Ilela in Sokoto, as well as three other main markets in Kebbi State.
The Presidency had on various occasions reiterated its plan for Nigeria to become a food-producing giant, self-sufficient to the point of depending very little on imported food.
“This noble plan could easily be defeated by the pull of the foreign market if food continues to leave our shores to feed people elsewhere. If care is not taken, Nigeria could face a famine by January,” he stressed.