Africa is currently a net-importing region that spends over $35 billion annually on food importation. Keen watchers of African affairs and stakeholders in the agricultural sector are divided on why the continent continues to import food when it has all it takes to really produce such food items locally and independently feed its citizens.
These debates were reignited during a press conference in Nigeria last weekend, when the nation’s Minister of State, Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri he raised an alarm over high rate of food importation in Africa.
The Minister lamented that the continent is now a dumping ground for expired and poisonous food, adding that African countries had suffered serious setbacks in the agricultural sector, while most food exporters in Europe and Asia have taken advantage of the food crisis and poverty in Africa to ship in food not healthy for human consumption.
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“Africa over the years have become a dumping ground for poisonous food imported from Asia and other continents. Nigeria alone is spending $20 billion annually on food importation. The food that passes through the border between Benin Republic and Nigeria are mostly deadly food. Benin Republic people don’t even eat them but allow those commodities to come into our country,” Lokpobiri explained.
He went on to say that the frozen chicken – which, according to him, contains formalin preservation used for corpses – and the bags of rice from Asia that have been in their warehouses for more than 15 years and have lost nutritional value are shipped down to Nigerians and other African countries to eat.
“Those countries where these commodities come from are intentionally frustrating our agricultural policies, programmes and farmers. It is an act to kill our economy. We cannot allow these things to continue because is killing our people,” he added.
Senator Lokpobiri reassured Nigerians that the Buhari-led administration is poised to invest massively in the sector and depend on local food producers and processors, adding that adopting such a measure will be good for the health of Nigerians and to save the huge amount of money spent on food importation.
The Federal Government’s commitment to investing in the local agriculture sector was echoed by the presidents of two development financing institutions. Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), strongly believes that by focusing on farming, Africa has the potential to feed not only itself but the rest of the world:
“With a little investment, Africa can feed itself and it has the potential to feed the world. African leaders and their partners must all do more to shape the continent’s mighty farming potential. One day Africa could feed the world. But first it must feed itself. And smallholder farmers must be part of the solution.”
Nwanze noted that countries such as Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana, whose governments – with the support of the private sector – focused on agriculture and made big commitment to farming, have achieved tremendous success.