The shortage of food in Nigeria paired with the consequent price increase has brought about deep worries for Abubakar Kyari, the Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Security. He suggested that closing the borders could potentially be a solution to this predicament. When speaking to the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance, and other Financial Institutions, Kyari acknowledged the difficult choice the government is confronted with: either close the border or ramp up initiatives to enhance local food production and exports. These remarks come on the heels of Niger State government’s recent move to ban the selling of food items to those living outside their state borders, alongside their ongoing endeavours to establish regulations for controlling the cost of food.
Kyari expressed his deep concern regarding the illicit food export to neighbouring nations, driven by the substantial depreciation of the naira in comparison to the CFA currency. He elaborated on the fact that the exchange rate stands at ₦2.20 for one CFA, signifying that 1000 CFA now amounts to ₦2,200; an astonishing increase from the ₦400-₦500 range observed just a few years back. Due to the decline in naira’s value, neighbouring countries boast the most affordable food. Consequently, there has been an increase in unrecorded exports that involve smuggling through our permeable borders.
Soaring inflation rate is influenced by previous borders closure.
He said this issue must be tackled diligently, pointing out the government’s active initiatives to enhance local production. Nonetheless, he cautioned that should the ongoing economic circumstances continue, the government could find itself facing a difficult choice. Kyari ascribed the occurrence of food smuggling to the current dearth of supplies and rising costs. He pinpointed additional factors that contributed to this issue, such as insufficient preparations made by the previous government for the upcoming 2023 agricultural season, insecurity hampering farmers’ inclination to cultivate, and a crisis in foreign currency exchange.
Furthermore, he noted the negative consequences caused by the limited availability of foreign currency. He gave examples of how investors from India, China, and Türkiye buy Nigerian crops at overly high prices mainly to acquire foreign money, without bringing any profits back to Nigeria or benefiting the government. Notwithstanding, the minister’s suggestion of closing the borders as a remedy has been met with opposition due to the country’s past encounter with border closures. It was believed that the country’s soaring inflation rates were largely influenced by the Buhari-led government’s decision to close the border as a means to boost domestic food production.
Closing borders could negatively affect regional commerce.
Critics contend that enforcing another border closure for the sake of food security would only worsen the already dire situation faced by the majority, adding that the people are still dealing with the consequences of the previous closure. The idea of closing the borders is highly controversial, as it could have negative repercussions on regional commerce, economic harmony, and friendly relations with neighbouring nations. They argue that this measure could add more pressure to Nigeria’s economy, aggravating both inflation and scarcity of food. More so, resorting to closing of borders might not adequately tackle the fundamental reasons behind the scarcity of food and rise in prices.
Rather, this move could inadvertently promote the continuation of illicit trafficking by encouraging the use of different pathways or methods. This would, in turn, undermine the government’s endeavours to establish a state of food security and economic stability. Moreover, such border closures could potentially harm Nigeria’s global image, thus discouraging foreign investments and diluting attempts to stimulate regional collaboration and integration. Given these concerns, stakeholders are pushing for a holistic approach to tackle the issues of food shortages and inflation. They said it is vital to implement strategic measures that support sustainable agricultural practices, boost productivity, and encourage regional trade.
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In order to effectively tackle cross-border challenges, stakeholders stated that collaborating with neighbouring countries is crucial. Additionally, it was suggested that Nigeria should prioritize investments in infrastructure, technology, and capacity-building to enhance its agricultural sector and guarantee food security for its people. While the shortage of food in the country poses a major hurdle, the suggestion to resolve it by closing borders warrant serious apprehensions. Stakeholders have underscored the significance of embracing a holistic perspective that tackles the root causes of food scarcity and price increases, while fostering collaboration and integration among regions to achieve sustainable development and economic progress.