Nigerian farmers have told President Muhammadu Buhari that reopening the border could lead to higher food prices.
Buhari closed the borders last August to protect local rice farmers in whom the government has invested billions of loans. The government is now considering reopening the borders after Nigeria slid into its worst recession in over 30 years.
But rice farmers kicked against the imminent reopening after finance minister Zainab Ahmed said a federal committee will advise Buhari to end Nigeria’s 15-month border closure.
“Farmers are harvesting their produce but yet prices of food items are on the rise for some other factors,” the National President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabiru Ibrahim, told Daily Trust.
“So, if you open the borders and allow free movement of the products to our neighbouring countries, what do you think will happen, it will be disastrous,” he said.
Nuhu Ayuba, a rice farmer cited by the newspaper, said that policymakers should handle the move with caution, adding that reopening the borders at the moment would erode the gains and the sacrifices made by Nigerians so far.
‘’We know the prices of many other items have gone high and are affecting the country but if we are to sustain our food sufficient efforts, the borders must remain closed at least for now,” he said.
But the farmers who are for open borders say the prices of commodities would actually fall as goods from other countries would also enter the Nigerian market. The rise in food supply, they say, will crash prices and benefit the consumer.
John Shagbaya, a poultry farmer, called for a temporary reopening of the border to address the feed crises facing the poultry industry.
‘’You can see the price of maize and soybeans have gone up, which means local production cannot still meet our demand,” he said.
“The border should be re-opened at least temporarily to enable importation of maize and soybeans to cushion the effects of the high cost of birds’ feeds,” he advised.
Meanwhile, the President of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Adetokunbo Kayode, said Buhari was wrong to have closed the borders in the first plave.
“It was never thought through as far as we are concerned because the government never consulted the people that use the border, the business people,” Kayode said.
“Government just took that decision and they gave their reasons for doing that but unfortunately, they never knew that oil would crash and COVID-19 will come and take over,” he said.