FG Denies Stoking Food Inflation by Mopping Up Production

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James Emejo in Abuja

The federal government has refuted claims that it is partly responsible for the current rising prices of food items in the country.

There had been concerns that the government’s practice of mopping up grains into the national Strategic Grains Reserves (SGRS) during harvests was responsible for the high costs of food products in the market.

Food inflation has remained a major challenge in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation.

Analysts also blamed the situation on demand-supply gaps as what is available can’t satisfy the demands of a growing population.

The composite food index rose to 17.20 per cent in March compared to 22.95 per cent recorded in March 2021.

Month-on-month, the food sub-index increased to 1.99 per cent in March, up by 0.12 per cent from 1.87 per cent in February.

However, speaking against the backdrop of allegations that the federal government’s practice of mopping up grains was contributing to food inflation, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammad Abubakar, told THISDAY in an interview that the government was only buying off the excess grains in the market.

But critics insisted that food production was not enough to talk about buying off excess grains.

The minister said, “No it’s not mopping; the federal government is buying the excess grains that are there to be bought.

“If it is not available, we will not buy and stock- what’s the point of stocking when people need it?”

Abubakar added, “So we are currently releasing and there are grains in the market.”

He however said though political commitment is absolutely fundamental for addressing the food security challenge, it is “not the complete answer.”

He said, “Strengthening food systems and chains is a shared responsibility. Governments, industry, and consumers all have a vital role and must work together to ensure ‘farm to the table’ food security.”

Meanwhile, worried about the rising inflation, particularly the food component, President Muhammad Buhari had recently authorised the release of 40,000 metric tons (MT) of grains from the National Strategic Grains Reserves (SGR) to vulnerable Nigerians to cushion the effects of rising prices of food items.

The government’s move was aimed at cushioning the effect of high prices of commodities across the country during the Ramadan, Easter, and Sallah festivities.

Analysts also believed the global supply shortages caused by the Russian-Ukraine war is exerting significant pressure on food prices, especially wheat as local production remained inadequate in satisfying demand.

WACT Onne Receives Second Largest Containership to Berth in Nigeria 

West Africa Container Terminal Nigeria (WACT) has received the second largest containership to berth at a Nigerian port. 

The 5,042 TEUs containership named Lady Jane operated by OOCL shipping line having a length overall of 294.5 meters arrived at WACT terminal Onne Port Complex, Rivers State, on Wednesday 13th April. 

WACT previously made history in August 2020 when it received the largest containership to berth in Nigeria. The ship named Maersk Stadelhorn has length overall of 300 meters and capacity to carry about 10,000 TEUs.

The Managing Director of WACT, Naved Zafar, said that effective coordination by Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) and the USD112 million (about N47 billion) investment in the terminal by APM Terminals, made it possible to handle very large container vessels. 

He said, “Lady Jane is the second largest ship to call at WACT. This is important because as you know, WACT has embarked on a transformation plan since last year with an ambition to become the most efficient and reliable partner to our customers. Declaring a big ship like this is a clear indication of the unwavering trust in our capabilities and an affirmation of the investments that we have made since last year.” 

“In line with WACT’s vision of becoming the gateway to East Nigeria and beyond, we continue to stretch our boundaries by investing and expanding in our service capabilities to deliver the best-in-class supply chain solutions to both our shipping line customers and landside customers. The arrival of Lady Jane is the practical manifestation of that commitment,” the WACT Managing Director further stated. 

Also speaking, the Port Manager of Onne Port, Stanley Magaji Yitnoe, said, “This achievement indicates that container traffic is growing. Last year, container traffic in Onne grew by 31% but with Lady Jane bringing in containers to discharge and to load, including full exports, container traffic is definitely picking up in Onne. We have WACT to thank for that and they are doing far more, as they are about to roll out a Container Freight Station (CFS) with focus on handing agri-commodities, which means more full exports will be loaded out of Onne Port once the CFS resume operations.” 

The Commercial Manager of WACT, Noah Sheriff, described the berthing of large containerships at the terminal as a great achievement. 

“It brings additional capacity both on the import and export side and all categories of our customers stand to benefit,” Sheriff said. 

“For the import customers, the regular direct services from the Far East coupled with our berthing window protocol, cargoes get here on time and agents/consignees are able to get the cargo to the market quicker using our online platforms. 

“For export customers, Lady Jane provides more slots for export loadings, which is important for the overall economy today. It is a good development for our shipping line customers as well, as we are positioned to accommodate such upgrade on the back of the recent investment,” he said.  

Sheriff said that WACT continues to increase its e-commerce capabilities with the upcoming Truck Appointment System (TAS) product, which will further enhance service delivery for trucks visiting its facility. 

“Once TAS is rolled out, truckers who book appointment will not have to wait in pre-gate lines to access the terminal. They will have direct access to the terminal per scheduled slot. TAS booking will be similar to the seamless online booking for physical examination product we offer today.

“Our vision is to make WACT the best performing terminal in West Africa by providing safe, reliable, and cost-effective services to our customers,” he added.