Disturbed by the surge in prices of food stuffs and its attendant impact on Nigerians, the federal government has concluded plans to crash the prices of rice and other foodstuffs within the next two weeks.
To ensure that this is fully implemented, government is already holding wide range consultative meetings with farmers.
Minister of agriculture and rural development, Audu Ogbeh, who is the chairman of presidential task force on soaring prices of foodstuffs disclosed this in an interview with LEADERSHIP.
Recently, the national bureau of statistics (NBS), in its annual reports, indicated that the nation is still being weighed down by soaring prices of food stuffs in the face of rising inflation.
Before the NBS report which is something most Nigerians were already conversant with, the federal government had in February set up a task force on food security, with the sole aim of looking at the causes of increase in the prices of food items across the country and addressing them accordingly.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who briefed journalists on the constitution of the committee said government was concerned about rising costs of food items in the country and was poised to bring it down.
Mohammed said the committee, which is inter-ministerial in nature, was expected to report back to the council next week.
“Government is quite concerned about the rising cost of food items and the fact that more often than not even when these products are available, when they reach the market, they are sold at very exorbitant prices”, he minister had said.
Almost sixteen weeks after the committee was set up, Nigerians still lament over the alarming rate at which prices of foodstuffs keeps increasing by the day.
But speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP, chairman of the committee and minister of agriculture and rural development, Ogbeh, said after weeks of underground work by the committee, the federal government was set to crash prices of food stuffs.
“The federal government will intervene on the prices of rice and other commodities in the next two weeks”, Ogbeh said, adding that details of the intervention will be clearly spelt out for all Nigerians to see.
The minister who admitted that weeks after his committee was inaugurated prices of foodstuffs are still much on the high side hinted that the committee has concluded arrangements to meet with rice growers and millers.
“We are talking to farmers to ensure that the prices are drastically reduced”, he stated, just as he pointed out that the current government has put in place different measures aimed at making farming encouraging.
Stressing that farming is a viable business, Ogbeh regretted that farmers have been enjoying government’s windfall but feel reluctant to bring down prices of foodstuffs.
“Although the high price is bad for non-farmers, it is good for the country because more and more people will rush to agriculture. At the end of it all, production will increase and prices will necessarily fall”, he said.
He insisted that his committee and the federal ministry of agriculture have intervened in different ways aimed at making farming more pleasurable to farmers.
He added that cost of credit to farmers has been reduced, even as he hinted that the Bank of Agriculture is being re-organised to further bring down the interest rates.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the senior special assistant to the acting president on media and publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, had specifically issued a statement announcing the decision of the government to constitute a presidential task force to urgently consider measures that would ensure a steady flow of produce to the market and reverse recent price increases.
In the statement, Akande quoted Osinbajo as expressing concern over some of the inflationary rates of food prices, noting that the task force would explore options to promote availability and affordability of food items to Nigerians.