The announcement by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to lift foreign exchange restrictions it placed on importers of 43 items eight years ago, has come as a rude shock to farmers in the country, as they said it is not a good decision for the country at this time. Experts, who spoke in separate interviews with FarmingFarmersFarms, said that it is another policy somersault from the government, that it would discourage a lot of farmers who have invested heavily in the country’s agricultural sector and that it would rubbish the gains that have been recorded since eight years ago when the restrictions were placed.
The agricultural produce on the list include rice, palm kernel, palm oil products, vegetable oils, meat and processed meat products, vegetables and processed vegetable products, poultry and processed poultry products, tinned fish in sauce (Geisha) and sardine and tomatoes/tomato pastes. The National President of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Sunday Ezeobiora, while speaking said, if importation of frozen chicken and eggs for instance is allowed, it means that the Federal Government had ‘murdered’ hundreds of billions of dollars investment in Nigeria and had successfully expanded unemployment by over 10 million direct farmers and countless indirect farmers.
He said that lifting ban will close down feed millers’ across the country that employed thousands of people and that the government should also prepare the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to take over 80 per cent of farms that are using bank money to manage and stay afloat, because none of them can repay the loan when the gate is open for anything. An agriculturist and the Chief Executive Officer of Bama Farms, Prince Wale Oyekoya, said that this is very sad and another somersault policy from the government. He said that the nation should be exporting its agricultural produce and not importing other countries’ food products into the country. According to him, the policy will add more pressure to the nation’s foreign reserves by depleting the little reserves into importation of unwholesome foods into the country. The National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Ibrahim Kabir, who corroborated Oyekoya, stated that this would amount to policy somersault and could discourage prospective farmers and even drive those already involved away.
“The food inflation being experienced is really global, so the importation of these listed items from elsewhere may not make our food system recover from the challenges it now experiences. The Chairman, Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Agric and Agro Allied Group, Kola Aderibigbe, said that he considered it as ‘salt in the wound’ that he read the communiqué by the CBN the reasons for lifting the ban that through unification of exchange rate, it will enable competitiveness, provide employment. “It is a premature decision, where is the enabling environment? For eight years of the past administration, insecurity and herdsmen issues were a nightmare to farmers and the entire agriculture sector. Those items that are necessary are still unable to get allocation through the CBN, talk-less of lifting the ban on these items we can produce in Nigeria that are agricultural products.
“What about the health hazards of rotten and expired chicken and turkey traders imported into the country via land borders? We need to be self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency will improve local production. Let us continue to consume what we can produce only. This will begin to transfer our wealth to another economy, to countries like India and Thailand and it will create unemployment. The best bet is to support local farmers, investors’ farmers and processors, for national growth on food diffidence, not to allow those commodities to be imported. This is a serious bomb on farmers”, he warned.