Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has said that Nigerian farmers must produce enough for the country to eat, saying that the country has “no money to import” food.
The comments follow concerns around food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic and rising food prices in Africa’s most populous nation.
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Programme, even before the Covid-19 crisis, farmers had not been able to satisfy demand for Nigeria’s population of some 200 million.
Although the agricultural sector remains a major employer, it has suffered years of neglect as the country’s economy is focused heavily on oil revenue.
Nigeria has been trying to boost domestic rice production for some time, cracking down on smuggled imports from Thailand by closing the country’s land borders last year.
Prior to the ban, Nigeria used to import over a million tonnes of rice from Thailand annually.
Now it only allows foreign rice through its ports – and imposes high import taxes.
Food prices have risen in Nigeria since the onset of coronavirus and government revenues have been hit badly by the fall in global oil prices.
The International Monetary Fund predicts that Africa’s biggest economy will contract by 1.5% points in 2020.