A friend of mine, Mal. Aminu Gandi, has expressed his support for borders to remain open to export of food commodities, arguing that farmers are becoming richer as they get better prices outside than inside the country.
I cannot agree more. Over the years, I have been an advocate of grains export from Nigeria as a means of boosting agriculture. In a free economy, nothing determines output like market. In any case, te law is the same whether in chemistry or in economics, that depletion of product drives the production process while product accumulation inhibits it.
So, when you ban the export of grains, for example, as it has been for decades, our farmers are forced to sell their produce only at a price determined by the Nigerian environment, which is often sub-optimal. In short, the farmer was subsidizing life for other Nigerians.
Now that Nigeria has subsidized the Naira, our neighbours can come in and buy food commodities at half the price it used to cost them. In fact, they do not need to farm anymore. They just come across the border and buy our produce with few Francophone notes. We can even save them the trouble by exporting it right to their countries. It has become like Muhammad and the mountain. This has created a rush for the commodities and prices at harvest are in far away North of where they used to be.
This has created panic in NIgeria. I have heard many voices crying that we will face food shortage if our farmers do not stock their harvest. Even the President once appealed to farmers not to sell their grains so soon. Many have called on government to close the borders against export of any grain to avert high prices here at home. However, markets hardly listen to summons. When they demand, producers supply immediately without any reservation.
A friend told me that the same is happening regarding cattle, whose export to Cameroon is attracting a lot of profit. I suspect that vegetables will also follow the same reverse trend – moving northward, instead of southward. It appears that over Nigerian beef and vegetables in particular, Nigerian consumers and their Francophone counterparts are in for a long battle – to the smile of the farmer who, hitherto, was considered a parasite, in spite of his productivity.
I still maintain that our farmers should be allowed to sell their produce to the highest bidder for many reasons. One, more than any other thing, it will boost agriculture and by extension, our GDP. Two, it is one of the things that will really eradicate poverty in the North by returning many of our youths to agriculture and creating additional jobs on the value chain. Three, in a regime of zero-subsidy under which this government operates, it will be an act of gross injustice to prevent farmers from realising the actual monetary benefit of what is 100% a product of their sweat.
Col. Hamid Ali should please leave the borders open to export of produce. Whoever is concerned should buy what he needs now. The farmer is not waiting anymore. You and I can also join him next year to sweat it out on the farm if we feel sufficiently aggrieved. If the government does not like it, let it provide subsidies to farmers. Wal ba ni wal ba ka..
But you cannot remove subsidy and control price at the same time. Farmers must not remain slaves in a democratic society.
Bari ai ba shegiya ba ce…