Nigeria’s dependence on imported foods has been on the increase, with the country expending N170.2 billion in six years, according to a report by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The document showed that as growth slowed in Nigeria, output became increasingly inadequate to meet the nation’s rising demand for food and industrial raw materials.
Consequently, Nigeria became food import-dependent, with rising import bills, which accelerated from N89.9 million in 1961 to N3.3 billion during 1981 to 1990; N62.7 billion in 1991 to 2000 and N170.2 billion in 2001 to 2006.
The World Bank report, tagged, Africa Can Help Feed Africa, said that the continent would generate an extra $20 billion in yearly earnings if the leaders can agree to dismantle trade barriers that blunt more regional dynamism.
The World Bank said that, with many African farmers effectively cut off from the high-yield seeds, and the affordable fertiliser and pesticides needed to expand their crop production, the continent has turned to foreign imports to meet its growing needs in staple foods.
“Africa has the ability to grow and deliver good quality food to put on the dinner tables of the continent’s families. However, this potential is not being realised because farmers face more trade barriers in getting their food to market than anywhere else in the world.
Too often borders get in the way of getting food to homes and communities which are struggling with too little to eat,” World Bank Vice President for Africa Makhtar Diop said.
The World Bank report urged African leaders to improve trade, so that food can move more freely between countries and from fertile areas to those where communities are suffering food shortages.
“The World Bank expects demand for food in Africa to double by 2020 as people increasingly leave the countryside and move to the continent’s cities,” the document stated.
It said that countries south of the Sahara, could significantly boost their food trade over the next several years to manage the deadly impact of worsening drought, rising food prices, rapid population growth, and volatile weather patterns.
Africa’s production of staple foods, according to the World Bank report, is worth at least $50 billion a year.
The document said that Africa’s farmers can potentially grow enough food to feed the continent and avert future food crises if countries remove cross-border restrictions on the food trade within the region.
The report suggested that, if the continent’s leaders can embrace more dynamic inter-regional trade, Africa’s farmers, the majority of whom are women, could potentially meet the continent’s rising demand and benefit from a major growth opportunity.
The report noted that this would also create more jobs in services such as distribution, while reducing poverty and cutting back on expensive food imports.
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