The Cowpea (Beans) Farmers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, has urged the Federal Government to extend ban of foreign exchange to none food items to ensure realisation of its diversification policy.
The President of the association, Mr. Shitu Kabir made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja.
He was reacting to President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop foreign exchange on importation of food items.
Kabir said it was high time foreign exchange on items Nigeria had comparative advantage on besides food items were banned to allow for development of local industries.
Kabir, who commended the president for such laudable step, noted that unless a drastic action was taken, Nigeria would not be able to reach its full potential, particularly in terms of agricultural development.
“We want to commend Mr President for taking this step. We believe there is no country in the world that develops without developing its technology internally.
“It is therefore, high time we banned other things besides food items. Any item that is in abundance in Nigeria like timber should be banned. There should be no Forex for such goods.
“So, it is a welcome development and I call on CBN to comply with the President’s directive,’’ he said.
On concerns that the President’s directive was ill timed because of some challenges still bedeviling the agricultural sector, he said “necessity is the mother of invention.
“If we do not put ourselves in a situation where we can create our own technology, we can never get it right.
“When it dawned on China, they closed their borders and stopped importing or exporting anything.
“They grew their economy within 50 years to become the second largest economy in the world today. So, Nigeria can do it.’’
On fears that the directive would further threaten food security in view of lack of adequate technology to preserve food items, particularly perishable ones, he said that was not a good reason to make Nigeria “a dumping ground for imported goods.
“We are food sufficient as a nation. Tell me the local government or state that cannot grow food in Nigeria, none.
“If you talk of cassava, go to Benue, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Cross River. If you talk of rice, Kebbi and Lagos states have enhanced the growing of rice and now we are rice sufficient.
“We can also grow tomatoes. We can go into irrigation. Go to Talata Mafara in Zamfara and see how we are wasting tomatoes. The only thing we need is to put in place means of preservation.’’
He further pointed out that once all families in Nigeria worked on their appetite for foreign goods and went back to farming, there would be no fear of food insecurity.
Kabir said “when we were growing up, we found our parents growing tomatoes, okra, pepper and other vegetables. We never went to the market to buy any of those.
“Why must we eat imported foods that end up creating health problems for us?
“In fact, we suggest that the Federal Government should go further in banning not only forex on those goods but all goods in their entirety.”
On government collaboration with international organisations for interventions in the agricultural sector, Kabir said while that was not bad in its entirety, the focus should be more on developing the economy internally.
He added that countries like Japan grew their economy after the Second World War by locking up its borders.
According to him, Nigeria can achieve such feat as the country is not poor.
“There is no local government, no state that does not have resources. It is aquatic, agricultural or solid mineral resources. Let us tap into those resources to develop our economy.
“When nations turn themselves into beggars, countries would begin to give unnecessary conditions. As a people, we must resolve that it is time to take this country out of the woods.’’
The agropreneur said Nigeria needed to get its acts right, particularly with the signing of Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.
He added that if the right thing was not done, other African countries might take advantage of any gap to exploit the country, saying “it is high time we woke up.’’
Buhari had on August 13 directed the Central Bank of Nigeria not to provide foreign exchange for the importation of foods, saying his administration had achieved food security. (NAN)