Food Scarcity: Tinubu Orders Release Of Grains To Douse Tension
By George George Idowu
Following the announcement made about opening the national food reserves on Wednesday, in an immediate effort to curb the surge of food commodities in the country, the federal government has ordered an immediate release of more than 102,000 metric tons of various grain.
The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, disclosed this to newsmen on Thursday, following a series of meetings of the Special Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention at the Aso Villa.
According to him, three measures have been put in place to tackle the rising cost of food commodities.
He said: “The first one is that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has been directed to release about 42,000 metric tons of maize, millet, garri, and other commodities in their strategic reserve so that these items will be made available to Nigerians; 42,000 metric tons immediately.
“The second one is that we have held meetings with the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria. Those who are responsible for producing this rice and we have asked them to open up their stores.
“They’ve told us that they can guarantee about 60,000 metric tons of rice. This will be made available, and we know that that is enough to take Nigerians the next one month to six weeks, perhaps up to two months” he said.
The third measure being considered as disclosed by the minister could be importing some of these commodities in where they see any form or shortage.
According to Idris, “Now, the third item is that government is also looking at the possibility, if it becomes absolutely necessary, as an interim measure in the short run to also import some of these commodities.”
He, however, declined to mention specifics as regards those hoarding food commodities.
The decision to open the national food reserves was prompted by the alarming projections of food insecurity in Nigeria, which estimated that about 26.5 million people would face hunger between June and August 2024.
The food reserves are managed by the National Food Reserve Agency, which was established in 2017 to ensure food security and price stability in the country.
The main crops stored in the food reserves are maize, sorghum, millet, wheat, rice, beans, and cassava.
The release of the food reserves is expected to reduce the inflation rate, which reached 18.17% in March 2024, the highest in four years.
The rice production in Nigeria was estimated at 5.2 million metric tons in 2023, while the consumption was almost 7 million metric tons, leaving a deficit of about 1.8 million metric tons.
The government has been implementing various policies and programmes to boost local rice production and reduce import dependency, such as the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, and the border closure.
The rice millers association has pledged to support the government’s efforts by selling rice at a subsidized rate of N19,000 per 50kg bag, compared to the market price of N25,000.