Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
A Pan-African organisation, Feed Africa Advocacy Network (FAAN) yesterday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to review upward N83 billion budgetary allocation proposed for agricultural sector in the 2020 fiscal year.
FAAN, a not-for-profit organisation working to achieve food security on the continent, however commended the federal government for taking such a bold step to close borders with neighbouring countries, urging Buhari not to pander to pressure to reverse the action.
The Executive Director of FAAN, Mr. Chika Okeke called for the budget review at a news conference he addressed in Abuja yesterday, noting that the 2020 budget proposal for agricultural sector was abysmal and should be revisited.
At the briefing, Okeke lamented that the allocation of N83 billion to the agriculture sector in the 2020 budget proposal was abysmal and needed to be revisited.
Okeke, therefore, canvassed a supplementary budget to meet some of the critical needs required to stimulate the growth of the sector, regretting that the 2020 budgetary allocation for the sector was not in tandem with government’s promise to taken agriculture seriously.
He said: “The budget is not sufficient. It is nowhere close to what we expected. It is not close to where we are coming from and it will not take us to where we are going.
“There is a need for a supplementary allocation for agriculture if we must walk the talk of diversification of the economy. The federal government needs to revisit the allocation to the sector.
“So, we need to do more as a country. Africa cannot feed itself if Nigeria is not food sufficient. So for as long as Nigeria continues to sneeze–as far as budget is concerned, Africa will catch cold, ” he said.
Okeke said it was disturbing that at a time when other countries were tapping into new opportunities in the agricultural sector by allocating huge budgets, Nigeria’s budget on the decline.
“For Africa to feed itself, Nigeria first needs to be self sufficient. We need investment to stimulate key sectors of the economy as far as agricultural value chain is concerned,” he said.
He, also, commended the federal government for taking such a bold step to close the borders, and advised the president not to bow to pressure to reverse the action
He, however, said the recent border closure by the federal government, which has triggered increase in the prices of some food has exposed the reality that Nigeria is far from meeting domestic needs.
The closure has led to a sharp increase in the prices of some major foods, including rice, questioning official claim that the country is self-sufficient in rice production.
A 50 kilogram bag of local UMZA rice goes for about N19,500 as against N14,000-N15,000 before the border closure while another local brand, Big Bull sells for about N21,000 now as against N15,000 earlier.
Okeke said the border closure with the attendant spike in the price of rice and other food items was indicative that local production of such food was not enough to satisfy domestic demand.
According to him, the border closure is a blessing in disguise as it has now exposed the gap in local production, advising the government and farmers to cash in on this and focus on boosting domestic production with a view to discouraging smuggling and dependence on foreign foods.