Despite concerted efforts by the Nigerian government to bolster food production through intervention programs, the nation has grappled with a significant food trade deficit amounting to N4.92 trillion between 2018 and 2022.
Data highlights a persistent inadequacy in domestic food production, necessitating substantial imports to meet the burgeoning population’s needs. As a consequence, the value of imported food soared by 121.7 percent over a five-year span, surging from N857 billion in 2018 to N1.9 trillion in 2022.
The surge in imports has been attributed to multiple factors, including escalating insecurity, particularly in the agricultural zones, which has compelled farmers to abandon their fields. This situation has compelled the government to channel millions of dollars into annual food imports.
Details sourced from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) illustrate that between 2018 and 2022, Nigeria imported agricultural goods worth N6.916 trillion, while its agricultural exports amounted to N1.997 trillion. This discrepancy has led to a staggering agricultural trade deficit of N4.919 trillion.
The data reveals a consistent upward trend in agricultural imports, with figures increasing from N857 billion in 2018 to N1.9 trillion in 2022, while agricultural exports experienced a less dramatic rise, reaching N598 billion in 2022 from N302 billion in 2018.
Analysts attribute the growth in exports primarily to the government’s intensive non-oil export drive rather than a surge in production. This scenario has raised concerns about the nation’s food security, which hinges on actual increases in production capacity.
A parallel report by the NBS suggests that the decrease in food production cannot solely be attributed to security issues. The report emphasizes the sharp escalation in prices of essential farming inputs—seeds, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and agricultural machinery—during this period. These price hikes have constrained farmers’ ability to expand production, leading to reduced yields.
The Nigerian government has invested substantially in various agricultural initiatives to stimulate local food production. The Central Bank of Nigeria disclosed disbursing N1.08 trillion through the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) between 2015 and 2022, aimed at enhancing agricultural output and correcting trade imbalances. Additional schemes, such as the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS) and Accelerated Agricultural Development programme, have been implemented with the goal of boosting food production. However, these interventions have yet to significantly impact the supply-demand gap, especially in staple foods.
While agriculture constitutes 22 percent of Nigeria’s GDP and employs over 80 percent of the population, limited resources hinder the productivity of smallholder farmers responsible for 90 percent of the country’s food production. Experts attribute this situation to factors like low productivity, post-harvest losses, fragmented markets, and inefficiencies in the value chain logistics.
Dr. Muda Yusuf, CEO of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), underscores the need for robust government intervention, improved security conditions, and enhanced support throughout the agricultural value chain to address these issues. Sola Obadimu, Director General of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), asserts that enhancing infrastructure and reducing unnecessary expenses will be vital for strengthening the Naira and curbing excessive dependence on food imports.