‘Forex ban on food importation will lead to inflation’

AS reactions continue to trail President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to halt foreign exchange on food importation, the Soil Science Society of Nigeria (SSSN) has posited that the development will lead to inflation and also reduce means of  livelihood of Nigerians.

President of the society, Professor Bashir Raji, while advising President Muhammadu Buhari to ruminate on both the production and consumption of food in the country, stressed that the policy would be laudable if properly articulated. He described the directive as “a right policy, right timing but wrong approach.”

He stated that Nigeria’s current rice production is about 3.7 million tonnes annually and its requirement is about eight million tonnes annually, adding that with the outright ban there is no way the country can meet up with the required 50 per cent in one year.

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“Definitely there will be high inflation, there will be high prices and considering the economy at the moment, a lot of people will suffer. The president must have been fed the impression that because of the drop in the importation of rice through our ports, the rice we consume in this country is produced locally, which is not true.

“There is a lot of increase in the production of rice locally, but there has been increasing smuggling from neighbouring countries which eventually ends up in Nigeria to complement what is produced locally.

The policy, if properly articulated will be beneficial on the long run but it is quite clear that we still rely a lot on importation of food and outright banning is likely to bring about inflation.

“It will also bring about pressure on the black or parallel foreign exchange market and lead to  high cost of food, especially rice. We don’t import yam, we don’t import cassava, beans and we don’t actually import most of our staple food; the ones we import are basically rice maybe wheat, milk, sugar and some of the exotic foods.

“Unless we can produce one and a half times what we require, it will not be a good decision to ban outright importation of food, especially now that a lot of people are suffering economically.”

Professor Raji recommended that the Federal Government halt FOREX gradually over the next five years, setting objectives to meet up measurable targets and make sure 50 per cent shortfall is  met during the period.

He also guaranteed that the society is ready to work with the Federal Government to reduce land degradation and climate change, also anticipating the massive farming activities the policy might generate.