The Presidency has warned Nigerians to brace themselves for an imminent outbreak of famine by January 2017.
Specifically, the Federal Government has asked the Ministry of Agriculture to present a quick plan for the purchase of surplus grains to be stored in warehouses across the country to save for the rainy day.
Also, the Presidency has urged religious and traditional leaders to prevail on grain exporters to curtail the exportation of grains and cereals.
According to a statement made available to journalists, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, made the disclosure in an interview he granted a Kano-based radio station, Pyramid Radio, on Monday.
Shehu said despite being Africa’s largest producer of grains, Nigeria risked famine from early next year following a huge demand in the global market targeting the country’s surplus production.
“The huge demand for our grains in the global market is creating an excellent environment for the mindless export of Nigerian grains across our borders and unless this is curtailed, Nigerian markets will be bereft of food by January next year,” he said.
The presidential spokesman said the Ministry of Agriculture had advised President Muhammadu Buhari on the need to draw the attention of all Nigerians to the issue which, if not addressed promptly, could lead to a shortage of grains by January.
“Over the past year, providence has blessed Nigeria with bountiful harvests of grains, more than enough to feed the country and to export to other countries.
“At present, there is a high demand for grains from Nigeria, from African countries as distant as Libya and Algeria, and from places as far away as Brazil.
“However, the Ministry of Agriculture has raised concerns about the massive rate of exportation, which could lead to a shortage of grains in Nigeria by January,” he said.
He explained that Nigeria had enjoyed a free market situation.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is not in any way opposed to or intent on tampering with that. On the other hand, exporters also have a moral obligation to make their produce available to Nigerians who live within our country’s borders, to ensure that our citizens have access to food,” he added.
Shehu said the Ministry of Agriculture had estimated that no fewer than 500 trucks laden with grains were leaving Nigerian markets every week.
He said the grains were being taken to countries outside Nigeria.
The major markets involved in this exportation, according to him, are the Dawanau Market in Kano, Naigatari Market in Jigawa, Bama Market in Borno, and Ilela Market in Sokoto, as well as three other main markets in Kebbi State.
He said Buhari had on various occasions reiterated his plan for Nigeria to become a food-producing giant, self-sufficient to the point of depending very little on imported food.
“This noble plan could easily be defeated by the pull of the foreign market if food continues to leave our shores to feed people elsewhere. If care is not taken, Nigeria could face a famine by January.
“Building our country into the edifice we envision it to be will require sacrifice and strategy from every single Nigerian. Let us remember that charity begins at home,” he said.
On how to address the situation, Shehu said Buhari had asked the Ministry of Agriculture to present a quick plan for the purchase of surplus grains to be stored in warehouses across the country to save for the rainy day.
He, however, added that there was a need for moral pressure on exporters by traditional and religious authorities to curtail the depletion of the home market.
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