Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Food imports in Nigeria

Most of our textbooks note that Nigeria once produced all the food its people needed. That was, of course, before oil became so important, before massive urbanization, before incredible population growth, and before globalization.

Still, importing such a vital thing as "food" raises nationalistic and sovereign warning flags to politicians.

As context for the Agricultural Minister's testimony before a Senate committee, let's note that according to the CIA World Factbook, 30% of Nigeria's economy is agricultural, but it employs 70% of the labor force. (What are the political implications of those statistics?) It's also estimated that 70% of the people live below the poverty line. (Which 70%?)

That source also tells us that the top agricultural produces are cocoa, peanuts, cotton, palm oil, corn, rice, sorghum, millet, cassava (tapioca), yams, rubber; cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, timber, and fish.

Meanwhile, the top imports are machinery, chemicals, transport equipment, manufactured goods, food and live animals.

In 2010, Nigeria had a trade surplus of nearly $22 billion, the 15th largest trade balance in the world. Of course, 95% of its exports are petroleum products.

For further context, the exchange rate for the Nigerian Naira is 150 to the dollar.

Nigeria spends N2trillion annually on food importation
Akinwunmi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture, says Nigerian spends N2 trillion annually on food importation.

Adesina, who disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja at an interactive session with members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, said the country had become a dumping ground for imported food.

"It is a shameful thing that Nigeria has become a net importer of food…

"N1 billion is spent every day to import rice. We also spend N240 billion to import sugar, and N1.2 trillion annually on fish…"

He said that if the agricultural sector was properly funded, it would not only reduce the country's dependence on food importation, but would also create employment for the people.

Adesina said that about 3.5 million jobs could be created and an estimated N300 billion generated from the agricultural sector in the next four years, if the right investment were made in the sector…

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