How big is Nigeria’s food import bill?


Africa’s largest economy Nigeria is spending 1.3 trillion naira ($6.5 billion) annually importing food, a trend that has come under attack from some of the leading voices in the country’s agriculture sector.

Nigeria is set to adopt a labour intensive agriculture strategy to boost local production of rice, cocoa and other crops, this is according to the agriculture minister, Audu Ogbeh.

Experts in the sector have warned the ministry to be careful on prioritisation of which crops to support under the new regime.

Kola Masha, chief executive at Doreo Partners told CNBC Africa that some of the government’s agriculture programmes needed to be thought through so as not to make extreme compromises.

“I commend the new minister as he is trying to take the good things from the previous administration and keeping some level policy consistency which is unique in this environment,” he said.

“However, the choices the government is going to make in choosing which crops to support should not compromise high value crops for the ones with lower economies of scale.”

Nigeria is not alone in spending much on importing food. According to reports, Africa spends about 45 billion US dollars on food imports annually.

Masha also added that Nigerianeeds  to address institutional challenges facing the sector.

“One of the areas we keep bringing the government’s attention to focus on underlying structures that inhibit the competitiveness of the sector which might come down to productivity.”

Masha warned against blind focus.

“Dairy is one of the most valuable sectors in the country’s agriculture industry, but the sector has some complexity. We import over 1.5 billion litres of milk per year which presents opportunities in the sector.”

He said when implementing strategies in critical sectors there is need to have have some short and longer-term wins.