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FG to distribute free grain palliatives to needy Nigerians – Minister

ministerDuring the inaugural Ministerial Press Briefing Series (MPBS) hosted by the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation on Wednesday, Senator Abubakar Kyari, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, announced that the 42,000 metric tons of grains recently sanctioned for distribution to vulnerable Nigerians would be supplied at no cost.

The minister emphasized that essential machinery and measures had been implemented to ensure that only deserving individuals and communities had access to the food relief packages.

President Bola Tinubu has instructed the immediate release of 42,000 metric tons of assorted food items from both the strategic reserve and the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria in response to the escalating food scarcity in the country.

Additionally, the minister highlighted that the government is in the process of drafting a national policy statement to prohibit double taxation on food transportation nationwide, following reports of harassment by street vendors on the roads.

This development reportedly contributed to the current surge in food prices, which the government is striving to mitigate.

Kyari stated that the government perceives the current food inflation as primarily driven by market forces of demand and supply, emphasizing that the challenge lies more in affordability than in availability for Nigerians.

He asserted, “Food is now perceived as a tradable commodity rather than a necessity for the nation’s food security. Given this situation and the challenges we face, we must make a clear statement that no double taxation should be imposed on food in transit.”

However, the minister acknowledged that some states, including Niger, have already halted food transportation between towns to promote self-sufficiency. He commended this initiative, stating that it would prevent potential crises and ensure food availability.

Kyari further elaborated that the recent establishment of the commodity board by Vice President Kashim Shettima was intended to address the prevailing food difficulties in the nation.

He emphasized that food security remains a national security concern that has not been adequately addressed. He added that once fully operational, the commodity board would regulate foreigners’ access to farmgate purchases directly from local farmers, along with the associated negative impacts on the nation’s food security.

The minister stressed that the country should prioritize achieving self-sufficiency in food production before considering exports to other nations.

The establishment of the commodity board, he explained, stems from the “challenges we currently confront in this country. It’s evident that anyone, regardless of nationality, can currently purchase goods at the farmgate. These are the pressing issues we’re grappling with concerning food security.”

“But the board will take charge of what is needed in terms of securing the supply of food for our teaming population before others take that which is for export.

“What we believe is that we must secure the country first with food for the population before any surplus. You must have a surplus before it goes outside. If you don’t feed yourself, you cannot export.”

He put the country’s annual rice production at between seven million and eight million metric tons, adding that the government is currently supporting about 500,000 farmers with agro inputs for dry-season farming to boost their productivity to about one million metric tons.

“And we believe that even when it comes to the wet season, we’ll also do much more than that. We may even increase the tonnage for the whole country,” he said.

 

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