The Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, has decried the high rate of food importation in Nigeria and how local farmers are affected by the ‘annoying situation’.
Ogbeh, who spoke during a budget defence session at the National Assembly on Tuesday, lamented that the country imports almost everything, including commodities that can be produced in Nigeria, putting the nation’s development in jeopardy.
He said, “Let nobody take it lightly, these guys have seized this country’s economy, taken us hostage and they have no intentions of giving up. Because this is a huge and very sweet market and they have taken control.
“Every time you bring in a shipload of rice, you also bring in a shipload of unemployment, because you are transferring your wealth to sustain other economies. Somehow, Nigerians didn’t notice it, so we became a nation of importers.
“Toothpick costs us $18 million; tomato paste costs us $400 million to import. Meanwhile, a basket in town is less than N2000; the farmers are losing money because the processors don’t have enough funds to set up factories.”
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The Agric minister explained that the Muhammadu Buhari administration remains uncommon due to the hard stand on growing local production.
“This regime is unpopular because it is time to cut down imports and transfer wealth to our rural people,” he said.
“Two factories have started off and I believe by the middle of next year, we can comfortably tell importers of tomato paste to stop. But when you do, you make enemies.”
Insisting that it was important to change a situation where Nigerians prefer foreign commodities over domestically manufactured ones, Ogbeh stressed, however, that the mentality was really poor but capable of being changed.
He, “We import milk, sugar, toothpick, toothpaste, pencil, items we don’t make; Vegetable, lettuce, cabbage come from South America through Dubai and arrives here for sale.
“There are also Nigerian who would rather have the imported item if it is not imported, it is not right, it shows status, class, that they only eat imported things.”
“There are Nigerians who use their cell phones to import pizza from London. That’s where we are, and it’s a very annoying situation.”
“To cure Nigerians of that malady will take a while, a strong government and that is the truth.”