New Telegraph

Hardship: FG Considers Importation of Food

The Federal Government is considering the possibility of importing food and commodities if there are shortfalls in supplies in the country. This came as the government has also ordered the immediate release of 102, 000 metric tonnes of grains (rice and maize) to the public and vowed to punish hoarders of commodities caught across the country. Briefing newsmen after the meeting of the Presidential Committee on Food Emergency, chaired by the Chief of Staff to the President, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, said the President has directed that food be made available, whatever it will take. He said: “The first one is that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has been directed to release about 42,000 metric tons of maize, millet, garri and other commodities in their strategic reserve so that these items will be made available to Nigerians; 42, 000 metric tons immediately.

“The second one is that we have held meetings with the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria, those who are responsible for producing this rice and we have asked them to open up their stores. “They’ve told us that they can guarantee about 60,000 metric tons of rice. This will be made available and we know that that is enough to cover for the next one month to six weeks, perhaps up to two months. They’ve agreed that they will make that available to Nigerians to bring it out to the market so that food is made available. “Now the whole idea of this is to crash the cost of these food items. And these are measures that will happen immediately.

“42,000 metric tons from the strategic government reserve, about 60,000 metric tons of rice from the Rice Millers Association, they have them in all their storage facilities and government in conjunction with them after this exhaustive meeting, has directed that they also bring this out immediately so that food, I mean the price of rice will come down significantly. “Now the third item is that the government is also looking at the possibility, if it becomes absolutely necessary as an interim measure, in the short run to also import some of these commodities immediately so that these commodities can be made available with- in the next couple of weeks.

“Now, with all these emergency measures, there is of course a directive to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to invest massively in conjunction with Nigerian farmers and other producers so that we can have a better planting season coming up shortly.” On plans to deal with hoarders, he said: “Now the government of course is also looking at all those who are hoarding these commodities because actually these commodities are available in the stores of many traders. Government is appealing to them, that they should open up these stores, make these commodities available in the interest of our nation. Of course the government will not fold its arms. We know where all these major traders are.

We know where all these major stores are. And if they don’t respond by bringing these commodities to the market, the government will take appropriate measures to ensure that these products are made available to Nigerians.” The minister assured that the prices of the commodities would be reasonable when released to the public. Asked to comment generally on rising inflation across board considering the effects of the high exchange rate, he said: “People always talk about that even some commodities that do not have direct dollar denomination are always quoted in dollars. That is unfortunate. We ask that Nigerians need to be more patriotic. Be our brother’s keepers and sell these things at a margin, but at a margin that is not also killing to Nigerians. “The President has directed that whatever it will take, food will be available to Nigerians at a cost that is also very reasonable. And that is what the summary of this meeting entails.”

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