The World Bank has stated that Nigeria is living on borrowed time as it continues to make financially irresponsible decisions as regards food importation. The World Bank said this is affecting local farmers and increasing unemployment in the country.
The statement made by the Senior Agricultural Economist of World Bank, Adetunji Oredipe, at the agriculture summit Africa in Abuja. Oredipe said Nigeria has risen to become one of the largest importers of food in the world despite its resources.
According to him, $965 million was spent on importation of wheat by Nigeria in 2016, while importation of rice and sugar gulped $39.7 million and $100.2 million respectively. He queried Nigeria’s decision to spend $655 million on fish importation despite the country’s marine resources, rivers, lakes, and creeks in Nigeria.
Oredipe said it was financially irresponsible, adding that, “None of the above transactions (importation of rice, fish, sugar) is fiscally, economically or politically sustainable.
“Nigeria is tragically living on borrowed time, a typical case of robbing Peter to pay.
“For instance, each time we spend money to import rice, Nigerian local rice farmers are negatively affected in terms of morale, sales, and realisable income.”
Nigeria has lost it place in the world: Oredipe said Nigeria has lost her position as one of the significant exporters of shelled groundnuts and palm oil as her glory days are now behind her.
“In the 1960s, we had glory. That glory was visible and significant for the global community to recognise and applaud.
“Nigeria accounted for 42% of the world’s exports of shelled groundnuts. Our total export volume was 502, 000 MT.
“This declined to 356 MT by 2016. Nigeria lost her leadership position and was overtaken by the USA, China, and Argentina.
“Nigeria was also the largest exporter of palm oil in the world and accounted for 27% of the global export volume for palm oil.
“Indonesia alone recorded US$16.5 billion, 54.5% of total palm oil exports. Unfortunately, Nigeria is not listed among the first 15 as at this moment.”
Revisit funding opportunities/policies: Oredipe said there’s a need to revisit the agricultural schemes and policies. According to him, it is necessary to encourage private investment and boost the potential of agriculture because people are discouraged by the profitability level which is low.
“The most fundamental cause of low investment in agriculture is the low expected profitability, which stems from low productivity. Additional factors contributing to this situation include an unfavorable business climate; infrastructural deficiencies; limited access and use of long-term business credit; and the high risk of investment.”
Adding that Nigeria accounts for 68% of the total tomatoes produced in West Africa due to the 1.8 million Metric Tonnes of tomatoes Nigeria produces per year, but 45% is lost during postharvest annually, while Nigeria is the largest importer of tomato paste from China and Italy, spending over N16 billion annually.
To improve the situation in the agriculture sector and boost sells, Oredipe advised the government to “link farmers with off-takers and processers. Our off-takers imports food items being produced by our farmers because they are not aware of the products in the local market.”
He added that jobs had been affected because of the Agricultural failure, stating that countries that take agriculture seriously had been able to provide jobs for their citizens.
“Food producing factories in the Western world, Far East Asia and other countries employ millions of young people to produce and export food. This is a source of livelihood and it helps the workers to live well and go to school.”