The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has advised all the three tiers of government to boost investment in agriculture to reduce price of foods.
Mr Muda Yusuf, the Director-General of LCCI, told reporters in Lagos that lower price of food items would alleviate poverty and reduce tension in the country.
Yusuf gave the advice against the backdrop of the rising Composite Food Index which reflected the country’s inflation rate. The index is made up of farm produce items as well as processed foods.
According to the data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), food index rose by 19.91 per cent year-on-year in June compared to 19.27 per cent in May.
Rising Composite Food index vs Nigeria’s inflation Rate (2017)
It was the highest food inflation since February 2009 as price rose for meat, bread, cereals, fish, potatoes, yam and other tubers, oils and fats, milk, cheese, eggs, coffee, tea and cocoa.
From the beginning of the year, there has been a consecutive percentage increase in food index, except in May when a marginal drop of 0.03 per cent was recorded.
Yusuf said that high food prices showed that the country had to boost productivity in agriculture and review some of its trade policies in a way that would not affect local production.
“For majority of the citizen, high food prices is a major concern because it aggravates poverty and physical tension, when there is hunger, a lot of social problems arise from there.”
“All the three tiers of government have to do a lot more to improve food production, address challenges faced by farmers and attract elite and youths to invest in agriculture.”
“Because the sets of people cannot go into agriculture and be using hoes and cutlasses to farm. We have to modernise our agriculture practices,” he said.
The LCCI boss advised that the Ministry of Agriculture should redirect its attention to improving food production, rather than focusing on exportation of foods.
“We need to invest more in producing more food. It is not the business of the ministry to be talking about export of yam; export business is for the Nigerian Export Promotion Council.”
“The Ministry of Agriculture should focus on how to increase production because we have the land and the people; what we lack is the right policy that can ensure better productivity in agriculture,” Yusuf said.
According to him, the drop in inflation rate from 16.25 per cent in May to 16.10 per cent in June is insignificant due to high cost of food.
“The cost of goods and services are still very high; incomes are not increasing, rather incomes are dropping, more people are losing jobs and purchasing power of people is reducing.”
“This is why it is important for government to deploy the mix of policies: trade, structural, fiscal, monetary and tax policies to ensure that prices of goods, particularly food are reduced,” he said.
He said that resolving the issue of high food prices was crucial due to its impact on social stability, poverty reduction and job creation.