Nigeria’s government has announced it will import 500,000 tonnes of rice up to a value of US$600 million to curtail the effect of the global rise in food prices on Nigeria.
The decision was taken after an emergency meeting between the Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua and the governors of Nigeria's 36 states.
“The whole essence of this importation in the short term is to create availability and reduce the skyrocketing prices,” the governor of south-western Ondo State, Olusegun Agagu said.
"We cannot say there is famine in Nigeria yet, but the prices of foodstuffs are going up and availability in a number of places is diminishing," the governor added.
Over recent weeks, the price of a bag of rice on markets in Nigeria has doubled and tripled to between US$85 and US$102. In the administrative capital Abuja, the price of butter, beans and bread have doubled just in the last two weeks.
Traders from Nigeria have reportedly been buying up stocks of rice and grains from around the West and Central Africa region.
The government says it plans to sell the imported rice at half the market price – around US$50 per 50kg bag. It expects delivery in around 3 months.
Some observers are questioning the way the massive rice import – the largest in Nigeria’s recent history - will be managed.
“The problem is the implementation,” a western diplomat in Abuja told IRIN on condition of anonymity. “Once it comes in, how is this rice going to be shared and distributed? Let’s pray the rice will not go to politicians,” the official said.
Nigeria, a former agrarian nation, abandoned agriculture in the early 1980s when the government refocused the economy on oil exploration, which now accounts for more than 90 per cent of total government revenue.
Nigeria is as a result chronically dependent on food imports. The country only produces 500,000 tonnes of rice while the annual consumption is 2.5 million tonnes.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions