Niger Moves To Cushion Cost Of Foodstuffs

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By; BALA B. BITRUS, Minna
Following spiral rise in the prices of commodities especially rice in markets consequent on the closure of Nigeria’s land border with Niger` and Benin Republics, governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State said his administration was studying how it could meliorate the increase in prices of goods.
Governor Sani Bello said while interfacing with leadership and members of the Amalgamated Traders Association, Niger state chapter at the Government House that his administration was concerned over the hike in the prices of staple foods in markets following the decision of the federal government to shut the country’s land border with some neighbouring West African countries recently.
He noted that as a responsible government, his office had been inundated with complaints over the cost of living especially on  the heels of the closure of the land borders adding however that though the closure was not intended by the federal government to cause hardship on Nigerians, it’s consequences were local.
The governor said the border closure was to enable Nigeria to be self reliant in the production of rice and other food items most of which are imported despite the country’s endowment to produce such food items locally.
He insisted that federal government’s intention was to make Nigeria independent and have sustainable economy rather continue to an importer and consumer of goods that it can conveniently produced.
Governor Sani Bello said the implications of the measures was for Nigerians to look inwards for local sourcing of most of the goods that could be produced at home.
He cited that the state government could invest in palm trees farming for palm oil production in the state.
He disclosed that he had directed the state’s Ministry of Agriculture to procure 5,000 improved palm tree seedlings for planting in parts of the state with relevant soil conditions for palm trees production.
Governor Sani Bello expressed optimism that within the next seven years, the palm trees would have matured to produce palm oil while the state would continue to increase the number of hectares to be cultivated in the next few years to make Niger state an oil Palm producer in the nearest future.
But Chairman of the state’s Amalgamated Traders Association, Muhammad Abubakar, said the hike in the prices of staple foods and other essential commodities were source of concern.
He noted that the sudden manner the borders were shut, had fuelled jerking in the cost of staple foods such as rice and other essential commodities but expressed hope that with time, Nigerians would adjust to the new realities.
He said the federal government should have made adequate plans against backlash consequences so that the effects of the border closure would have been mitigated.
Muhammad Abubakar appealed to the state government for support to the members of the association to enable them remain in business.
He said though there were local rice milling companies in the country, none of the rice millers can mill 30% of local demands.
The Chairman argued further that though rice was being produced locally, local production cannot meet quantum of local demands, a development which puts strains on government’s stance on imported rice.
He welcomed the state government’s decision to cushion the present hardship faced by citizens over rise in cost of staple foods.
At the meeting with the leadership and members of the associated, governor Sani Bello did not say his administration intends to intervene in cushioning the astronomical rise in the prices of staple foods sold in markets.

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