Economic Hardship: Tinubu approves massive, free importation of major food items to overcome high prices

President Tinubu approves

President Bola Tinubu has approved the duty-free importation of major food items like rice, beans and wheat, to cushion the impact of the high food prices Nigerians have been grappling with since he assumed office last year.

Food items

According to a statement by the President’s spokesperson, Bayo Onanuga, the measures will be “implemented over the next 180 days”.

Onanuga, quoting Agriculture Minister, Abba Kyari, said President Tinubu approved a “150-Day Duty-Free Import Window for Food Commodities”, including “maize, husked brown rice, wheat and cowpeas”.

Nigerians have battled with high food prices since the president announced the removal of petrol subsidies last year and also floated the naira so the value of the Nigerian currency can be determined by market forces.

The policies led to a huge increase in the prices of basic foods, with 50kg of rice increasing in price from about N20,000 to about N70,000 in a year.

Many Nigerians had called on the president to allow massive food importation to cushion the rise in food prices; however, others argued against it, saying it would affect the local production of such goods.

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In his statement, Onanuga said not only will the Government now allow duty-free import for the private sector for 150 days, the federal government will “import 250,000MT of Wheat and 250,000MT of Maize. The imported food commodities in their semi-processed state will target supplies to the small-scale processors and millers across the country”.

According to him, the Government’s position exemplifies standards that would not compromise the safety of the various food items for consumption.

He further explained that under the arrangement, imported food commodities will be subjected to a Recommended Retail Price.

In addition to the importation by private sector, Federal Government will import 250,000MT of Wheat and 250,000MT of Maize. The imported food commodities, in their semi processed state, will target supplies to the small-scale processors and millers across the country.

By implication, the Government is planning to import maize and wheat equivalent to approximately 2.5 million bags(100kg) of each commodity to ameliorate the shortages in the country and force down the prices in the market.

The statement further clarified that, “The ‘Renewed Hope National Livestock Transformation Implementation Committee’ will be inaugurated on Tuesday, 9th July 2024 with a view to developing and implementing policies that prioritize livestock development and ensure alignment with the National Livestock Transformation Plan.

Over the next 14 days, in close collaboration with the Presidential Food Systems Coordinating Unit (PFSCU) and the Economic Management Team (EMT), we will convene with the respective Agencies to finalise the implementation frameworks. We will ensure that information is publicly available to facilitate the participation of all relevant stakeholders across the country.

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