Nigeria: Govt Sets Up Task Force on Food Cost and Safety

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The Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday resolved to set up a task force on food security.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this to State House correspondents after a five-hour meeting presided over by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.

The minister said this was aimed at checking the rising costs of food items in the country.

He said the committee would look at how the government could intervene to bring down the exorbitant cost of food items.

According to him, the task force is an inter-ministerial committee comprising the Ministers of Agriculture, Finance, Water Resources, and Transportation.

He said the committee was expected to report back to the Federal Executive Council next week when concrete actions would be taken.

“Government has set up a task force on food security to ensure that an end is put to the wastages that occur and with tons and tons of produce sitting down in the farms rotting or in the markets getting rotten.

“The important thing is to look at what areas of intervention can the government make. The intervention can be in the area of subsidy in transportation that is being worked out.

“This goes to show that government is very much concerned of the rising cost of food prices, and we are responding to it. Clearly government is concerned and is trying to do something to bring it down,” the minister said.

Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, told newsmen in Abuja on Saturday that it was aimed at balancing and equalising food prices across the country.

Ogbeh, who was reacting to some media reports that the idea was anti-farmers, said it was rather intended to ease the transportation of agricultural goods from one place to another, given that high cost of transportation is a major cause of price increases.

“There is no attempt by the government to regulate prices because it cannot work.

“What government is worried about is the high cost of transporting commodities in some parts of the country and the lack of availability in some parts while there are surplus in some other parts.”

He said the federal government was exploring the possibility of creating centers to enhance movement of the items from areas of production to other areas where they are needed as a way of drastically reducing their eventual prices.

“Where there is a surplus of yams, the trains will move them down to other parts,” the minister said.

Ogbeh, also a member of the committee, expressed concern over some illegal checkpoints and revenue collectors along transportation routes for food items, saying this also had its impact on the price of food items.

According to him, the illegal payments made by transporters and producers add to the prices of the produce and are the major causes of the high cost of the items.

He expressed concern over the dilapidating nature of roads across the country, which, in the absence of rail, had become the major source of moving items, which was worsened by the operation of many illegal checkpoints.

“It will take a trailer a week to move from Yola to Lagos because these illegal citizens close the road and say they are collecting revenue. It is an illegal activity.

“We have written to state governors, we have told police.

“This means that the government will give these farmers some certain level of support but it is definitely not an attempt to regulate prices. We cannot and if we try to do that, then we will discourage the producers,” Ogbeh said.

He assured farmers and producers that the committee was currently working assiduously to achieve its mandate in their interest and that of Nigerians.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Federal Government, on February 1, during its Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting set up the committee, mandating it to present a report within one week.

Aside Ogbeh, other members of the committee are the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Water Resources, Mr. Suleiman Adamu and Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.
– Sources: NAN I The Guardian I Isiaka Wakili – Daily Trust