• 150-day duty-free import window for food commodities
  • Support for smallholder farmers during ongoing wet season farming
  • Collaborating with states on irrigation and increased production
  • Engagement of youth and women in greenhouse cultivation
  • Support for fortified food commodities
  • Military to cultivate arable land

“My team and I will work swiftly and diligently to actualise the crucial policies to ensure food security for everyone in the immediate term,” Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Abubakar Kyari, declared yesterday.

It was to kick-start the emergency plan to neutralise the galloping rise in food prices, among others.

Soon to begin is the implementation of the 150-day duty-free import window for food commodities.

The programme is a quick-fix stopgap to ease food supply ahead of harvest.

With the programme, there will be no duties, tariffs, or taxes on some essential food items imported through land and sea borders, such as maize, wheat, husked brown rice, and cowpeas.

At 40.66 per cent, food inflation is the key driver of the 33.95 per cent headline inflation as of May, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Adewale Adeniyi, said the agency was still analysing the implementation modalities.

“We are still studying it,” he told the House of Representatives Committee on Customs and Excise during an oversight visit.

The Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) fears the new tax exception for rice imports will discourage local cultivation.

The minister, in a tweet via his verified X handle @SenatorAKyari, said within the 150-day timeframe, the Federal Government would import 250,000 metric tons of wheat and maize each.

The imported food commodities will be subjected to a Recommended Retail Price (RRP), he said.

“We understand concerns about the quality of these imports, especially regarding their genetic composition.

“The government assures that all standards will be maintained to ensure the safety and quality of food items for consumption,” Kyari said.

According to him, these semi-processed commodities will be supplied to small-scale processors and millers nationwide.

Other measures, he said, would be the purchase of surplus food commodities to restock the national strategic food reserve.

Kyari said during the period, the Federal Government would ramp up production for the 2024/2025 farming cycle

This, he said, would involve support to smallholder farmers during the ongoing wet season farming through existing government initiatives, and aggressive agricultural mechanisation to reduce drudgery, lower production costs, and boost productivity.

Others, he said, include collaborating with sub-national entities to identify irrigable lands and increase land under cultivation, as well as rehabilitating and maintaining irrigation facilities under river basin authorities.

Kyari said there would also be strategic engagement for youth and women for immediate greenhouse cultivation of horticultural crops such as tomatoes and pepper to increase production volume, stabilize prices, and address food shortages.

He said the government would fast-track ongoing engagements with the military to rapidly cultivate arable lands under the Defence Farms Scheme and encourage other para-military establishments to utilise available arable lands for cultivation.

According to the minister, the Renewed Hope National Livestock Transformation Implementation Committee was inaugurated on Tuesday to develop and implement policies prioritising livestock development in alignment with the National Livestock Transformation Plan.

Kyari added that the Federal Government would promote the production of fortified food commodities and support the scale-up of the Home Garden Initiative by the Office of the First Lady.

The minister said over the next 14 days, in collaboration with the Presidential Food Systems Coordinating Unit (PFSCU) and the Economic Management Team (EMT), the ministry would meet with 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.

“The success of these measures hinges on the cooperation and collaboration of all relevant MDAs and stakeholders.

“As our nation confronts this critical food security challenge, I reiterate President Tinubu’s unwavering commitment to achieving food security and ensuring that no Nigerian goes to bed hungry.

“My team and I will work swiftly and diligently to actualise these crucial policies, ensuring food security for everyone in the immediate term while continuing our strategies for long-term interventions to address underlying causes and ensure sustainable and resilient food systems in Nigeria,” he said.

But, rice farmers fear local production may be hampered.

Lagos State RIFAN Chairman, Raphael Hunsa, said: “The import duties exception the government has granted for rice imports will greatly affect local rice production.

“This will license and give opportunities to businessmen to import their rice free of charge.

“This development is not encouraging to local rice farmers at all; it is not beneficial to us.

“This means the government is encouraging more rice imports at the detriment of our local rice.

“What we are asking the government to do is to empower local rice farmers, so that the country will move forward.”

The RIFAN chairman urged the government to empower local rice farmers for increased rice cultivation.

“The countries we are importing from, if their government did not empower their farmers for increased rice production, they will not produce enough to export.

“So, let our government support rice farmers too, and let this support get to the right people, so it will not be a scam.

“We believe some group of persons have confused and advised this government wrongly on this policy.

“Rice farmers are not happy about this policy, we are disadvantaged by it. We were not considered in this policy formulation,” he said.

Customs: policy doesn’t mean open border

Adeniyi said the tariff-free window does not mean borders would be open for all manner of imports.

“There is nothing in that pronouncement that says the extant rules have changed