The Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, has said that removing import restrictions on certain staples as a measure to address the rising food costs will cripple local food production.
Food inflation rose to 22.95% in March, caused by wide-ranging price increases across items such as cereals, yam, meat, fish and fruits.
The rising costs have been in part blamed on worsening insecurity across the country.
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Senator Adamu, who is also a former governor of Nasarawa State, in an interview with newsmen, said importation of commodities was not the way out of the current food crisis, but improved security and enhancement of local production capacity.
He said the problem of food price hike would continue until the country’s security situation improves.
Adamu said: “The things with us Nigerians, I apologize to the sincere ones, is that once you give the latitude for borders to open or for the importation of commodities, people will abuse it by bringing in a number of items beyond the approved limit.
“One gram of any commodity you bring into this country, you are denying the Nigerian producer the same market.
“The production there is cheaper because it is fully mechanized. They started a long time ago. But we are just talking now about mechanization.
“For me, instead of running from our problem or taking the easy way out, we should face the reality of our situation.
“We should face the challenges, produce enough for the country, store some for the rainy days and find a way to do preservation to minimize post-harvest losses.
“These are the challenges that we have. The solution is not to bring commodities from overseas.
“We have to enhance our production, let try to overcome our own local problems. Let us address the issues that challenge us.”
‘Commercial banks, the problem’
On financial support to local farmers, the Nasarawa West lawmaker expressed concern that commercial banks in the country were not supporting the government’s effort at achieving food sufficiency.
He added, “The commercial banks are not interested in agriculture because there is no quick return for them and the risk is too high.
“Somehow, the government is not pressing them enough to have it as a matter of duty to this country.
“Every country has a duty to say to its banks that agriculture is our priority and we must be able to feed ourselves.
“For this to happen, our production index must be good and high enough for us to be self-reliant.
“As long as that is not done, our sovereignty is put to question. We have a duty to force this authority on the banks, either you do it or you quit.”
Regarding the reactions trailing the move by the present administration to revive the old grazing routes of cattle, Senator Adamu described those criticizing the initiative as dishonest.
He said: “So if you don’t want routes, how do you want to convey the cattle.
“People argue cattle rearing is a private business. Is auto spare parts or banking private businesses? Why are they relying on the government?
“We are so dishonest. Hatred and prejudices are killing genuinely positive initiatives.
“We should check this because we are destroying the basis of our togetherness.”