Says no food shortage, price increase due to transportation cost
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force on Food Security, set up last week, has submitted an interim report to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, yesterday.
The task force said the country is not experiencing food shortage, but that Nigerians are groaning under the high cost of food prices due, mainly, to increase in transportation of farm produce across the country.
Also, high cost of diesel and heavy duty trucks were blamed for hike in food prices across the country.
The task force is, therefore, considering alternatives which include transportation of food with railway wagons, using the present railway network. Doing this, the task force, believe cost of food will come down, as well as avoid multiple taxation on transporters by local governments, which delays movement.
The task force has also resolved to open the nation’s reserves and release foodstuff into the market, if the situation persists in the next few days, in order to force down prices as the nation prepares for another harvest at the end of March.
The meeting, presided over by acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, approved a set of measures to boost production and attract investment into the Nigerian tomato sub-sector.
This was disclosed by , Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah and Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Audu Ogbeh, who briefed alongside Ministers of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed, and Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola. Enelamah said the task force submitted a preliminary report on its assignment with some recommendations on how to boost tomatoe production in the country.
He added that the task force recommended, among others, removal of 20 percent tariff on greenhouse equipment to reduce the cost of large scale production of the commodity in the country. He said the Council noted that a lot of farmers were into tomatoe farming, adding that a state like Kano, alone, has 75,000 farmers, hence, the need to encourage them.
“We also approved a set of measures that will boost local production in terms of financing seeds and all the other things. Let me say the most important thing about these set of policies is that, in our approach, we are going to be working with the stakeholders to actually implement the polices.
“So, we are going to set up an inter-ministerial committee that will work with the private sector and with different stakeholders to make sure the implementation of the policy itself is not only done transparently, but also robustly to ensure we achieve the desired objective, which is to become self sufficient in tomato production within the next one or two years,” Enelamah said.
On tariff to discourage dumping of imported goods in the country, the minister said; “Most definitely, we are not coming down, we are going to go up. We will be announcing what the new tariffs are, but, clearly, there is a new set of tariff that will discourage dumping, you can take that to the bank.
“To boost local production, we are interested in factors that boost production. On financing, the Central Bank had been working with the tomato farmers already. I am confident the measures taken will boost production.
“The minister of science and technology is working with us in terms of both the production methods and equipment,” he said.
The trade minister also disclosed that plans were on the way to restrict the importation of finished products from other ECOWAS countries into Nigeria.
“We are also going to restrict importation of finished products from other ECOWAS countries where products are dumped, then transported across our borders, making sure those risky products don’t go through our land borders; if you want to import them, you have to go through the sea.
“We are going to make sure that, in terms of incentives which goes back to production, the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission will make sure the production of tomato gets its pioneer status. We are also working on the CBN in terms of financing of production. We are also working with the ministry of agriculture on seedling quality and so on,” Enelamah said.
Ogbe, while throwing more light on what the food security task force did said they identified the causes of food price increases.
“The good thing is there is no real shortage of food. There is food, but the prices are a bit too high and Nigerians are groaning under the pain. “One of the things we found out is that the cost of transportation is becoming extremely high, especially, because most of our transportation is by road and diesel prices have gone up and trucks are finding it difficult to move from place to place at old prices.
“So we considered using railway wagons along the current railway network. As we did before when we moved cattle from North-West to Lagos, we brought down the cost and avoided the multiple taxation on transporters by local governments which delay movement.
“We decided to work with the state governments and the police to reduce delays.
“We are going to adopt what they have in Ivory Coast. Trucks carrying foods are given labels. In fact, in Ivory Coast, they cannot be stopped for more than 10 minutes anywhere.
“Even if something serious happened, the security agencies will follow them to their destinations and come back to investigate whatever happened.
“Finally, we shall be looking into our reserves if, in the next few days, the situation persists, to see what we can bring out to lower the prices, because another bumper harvest will be coming up at the end of March.
“The other factor is what you know already. There is a lot of pressure on Nigerian food from west, north and Central Africa. Our food production is very robust and we are doing pretty well.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola said Council has approved the reconstruction of Ilorin-Omu Aran-Kabba Road, Section I to link Kwara and Kogi at the cost of N21 billion.
He said council also approved N589 million consultancy services contract for social management plan to access Japanese loan to support electricity transmission in the country.
According to him, the justification for the memo and consequent approval is consistent with “our promise to continue to reduce travel time to ease the cost of doing business and the cost of goods and services. This project is for N21 billion.
“Before we start the construction, we must do an assessment of the routes that some of the transmission lines will pass through.
“The projects for which approval has been obtained from council cover areas like Arigbajo, Abeokuta, Olorunshogo, Ikeja west, Oshogbo, Ogijo, Ikorodu, Shagamu and part of Benin towards Edo State, contiguous to Ondo State around Omotosho as well as Agbara and Badagry.
“When completed, it will help us in the evacuation of power from the Olorunshogo Power Plant to supply industrial clusters in Ogun and part of Lagos State.
“The consultant service for the three is for about N589 million,” Fashola said.