FG to distribute free grain palliatives to needy Nigerians – Minister

The Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Abubakar Kyari, said the 42,000 metric tons of grains recently approved for distribution to vulnerable Nigerians would be provided free of charge.

Kyari stated this at the maiden Ministerial Press Briefing Series (MPBS) organised by the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation on Wednesday.

The minister said necessary machinery and measures had also been put in place to further ensure that only needy individuals and communities accessed the food palliatives.

President Bola Tinubu had directed the immediate release of 42,000 metric tons of assorted food items from both the strategic reserve and the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria as a short-term response to the rising food shortage in the country.

The minister also said that the government will soon come up with a national policy statement prohibiting double taxation on food transportation across the country, following reports of touts’ harassment on the roads.

The development had reportedly contributed to the current increase in food prices which the government is battling to contain.

Kyari said the government believed that the current food inflation was due to market forces of demand and supply, adding that the problem of affordability remained a key challenge for Nigerians – and not the issue of availability.

He said, “Food is now viewed as a trading commodity, not as a necessity for food security of the nation. And I think because of this situation and the challenge that we face, we have to come out I make absolute statement that no double taxation should be applied to food in transit.”

The minister, however, noted that some states, including Niger, had already stopped food transportation from one town to the next to ensure self-sufficiency.

He said the move was commendable as it would avert any crisis that may arise adding that it would also make the food available.

Kyari also explained that the recent inauguration of the commodity board by Vice President Kashim Shettima, was aimed at resolving the current food challenges in the country.

He said food security remained a national security issue that had not been properly managed, adding that when fully operational, the commodity board will regulate how foreigners access the farmgate and buy directly from local farmers, with all the attendant negative impacts on the country’s food security.

He said the country ought to first achieve self-sufficiency in food production before exporting to other countries.

The minister said the setting up of the commodity board arose from the “challenges that we face in this country today. You will agree with me that anybody can go to farmgate today and buy items.

“Even if it’s somebody from India or any other country, they can go to the farm gate and buy. And these are the issues that we’re facing today in food security.

“But the board will take charge of what is needed in terms of securing the supply of food for our teaming population before others take that which is for export.

“What we believe is that we must secure the country first with food for the population before any surplus. You must have a surplus before it goes outside. If you don’t feed yourself, you cannot export.”

He put the country’s annual rice production at between seven million and eight million metric tons, adding that the government is currently supporting about 500,000 farmers with agro inputs for dry-season farming to boost their productivity to about one million metric tons.

“And we believe that even when it comes to the wet season, we’ll also do much more than that. We may even increase the tonnage for the whole country,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *