Friday, 3 February 2017

Does FG need task force to bring down food prices?

It is not about enforcement of prices by a special task force. Government needs to encourage production of goods and services by adequately providing things that make industries thrive. Many companies have relocated from Nigeria to other West, East and South African countries because this country cannot guarantee industrialists power supply and good roads, among other things.
We don’t see genuine intention of the government towards youth corps members and those who have completed their service. What about initiatives like the Green Revolution and other agricultural schemes? What is a graduate of agriculture doing in school classroom when he is supposed to go to the field to assist in the production of food crops?
Right now, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, the inflation rate in the country is about 18 per cent. Unfortunately, the country cannot fund some of its projects. The only product it depends on for export, oil, has not been produced at full capacity owing to restiveness in the Niger Delta region.
If we ask the Federal Government to set up a task force to control prices, and producers deliberately withhold the supply of their goods, what will be our gain? Government should set up mechanised farming, encourage graduates to go into it, aid small-scale industries and encourage consumption of locally produced goods.
  • Prof. Charity Aremu (Dean, College of Agricultural Science, Landmark University, Omu-Aran, Kwara State)
Task force is not the answer.  Why not go via the farmers’ way
instead of embarking on task force to bring down food prices? Why not consult our farmers? Agricultural production starts from these farmers; we need to consider their production cost. You cannot just cut down food prices without looking at the inputs required for such production. We have to carry the farmers along in all of this.
Pick different food items such as rice, beans, maize and other major staple foods in Nigeria; then look out for the farmers that are into commercial production and carry them along. Let them make inputs before you go into this food price slash because if you do not factor them into it, you are telling them to stop producing. Farmers cannot produce what they know they will not be able to sell and make profit.
So, we have to consider the profitability on the side of the producers/farmers before setting up any task force. If eventually the Federal Government wants to establish it, let farmers be the major members of the task force.
Look at the fuel task force, is it working? Even the task force by the Petroleum Product Prices Regulatory Agency, is it working today? All of these task forces end up becoming government agents and not serving the masses they are to serve. I do not think the task force will work. All they need is to encourage the farmers to produce more.
We need to go down the farmers’ field, assisting in production as it is being done in developed countries.
As they are producing, let the government buy it over and make it available during scarcity. That is the best way to go. Let the government create silos at strategic places to use as re-ecological/agricultural production zones.
  • Beatrice Itubo (Rivers State Chairperson of the Nigeria Labour Congress)
If there should be any task force, it should be the one that should bring down the foreign exchange. It should be a task force that will increase the strength of the naira against the dollar and not the one that will tell foodstuffs sellers to reduce the prices of their goods. Of course, it is not just the prices of food that have gone up; the prices of other commodities have also gone up.
The fact is that, it is simply market forces that determine the prices of goods, including food. The solution is not and cannot be to force foodstuffs sellers to bring down the costs of their goods. No trader wants to lose while doing business. So, the option of the task force may not work.
Apart from finding a way to strengthen the naira, the Federal Government should also put in place policies that will create jobs and open up the industries because most industries are closing down, and some of the few ones that are open are treating their workers shabbily.
It is not advisable for the Federal Government to set up a task force to force down the prices of foodstuffs. Foodstuffs sellers purchase their goods from somewhere at high prices and should not be expected to sell below their cost prices.
  • Olatunji Ife (Chairman, Osun State House of Assembly Committee on Commerce and Industry)
Setting up a task force to control the prices of food items is not the solution. What we need are workable policies that will make farming attractive for formers to produce more.
With the right polices and infrastructure in place, local and foreign investors will go into agriculture and agro-allied ventures which will increase production and help Nigeria produce enough for local consumption and export.
Nobody wants to go into a business venture which he knows will lead to him losing his investments, you can’t tell a farmer for instance not to sell what he harvests at a price he feels will cover his expenses and give him profit no matter how small. We cannot solve 2017 problems with skills acquired in 1983.
  • Emma Okoro (Abuja-based Public Affairs Analyst)
We certainly don’t need a task force to bring down food prices. You need key polices geared towards improving the lot of farmers and other stakeholders in the value chain. Any good farmer, who is serious, will give a lot of attention to getting farm implements and high yielding seedlings to improve his yield per hectare if he is into crop farming. Those into animal husbandry will also invest heavily in animal species that will give them the most value for their investments.
The government needs to reach out to  farmers,  all of us come from farming areas, the farmer will know and can tell you this year, ‘I want to increase the production of this or that crop or animal.’ Government can help by reaching out to these farmers through their cooperative societies. These societies can access high yielding crops, farming implements and soft loans for their members from the Agricultural Development Bank.
Government can assist by giving guarantees and providing extension services; is that not what we have the Ministry of Agriculture and its parastatals for? What we need is an increase in production and basic infrastructure such as roads for our farmers to take their produce out of their farms hidden in forests to the market. I am sure we have silos in this country which have not played host to a single grain since they were built, this has to change.
  • Senator Danladi Sankara (A former board chairman, Hedeijia-Jama’are River Basin Development Authority)
Setting up a task force to control the prices of food items is not the solution. What we need are workable policies that will make farming attractive for formers to produce more.
With the right polices and infrastructure in place, local and foreign investors will go into agriculture and agro-allied ventures which will increase production and help Nigeria produce enough for local consumption and export.
Nobody wants to go into a business venture which he knows will lead to him losing his investments, you can’t tell a farmer for instance not to sell what he harvests at a price he feels will cover his expenses and give him profit no matter how small. We cannot solve 2017 problems with skills acquired in 1983.



Punch

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