THE National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) has expressed concern over the recently released 2010 annual budget saying that â€œpurposeful and responsive governments worldwide are committing more investments and resources towards boosting food and agricultural productionâ€.
In a statement, the President of the association, Mr Ken Ukaoha called on the government to review the 2010 budget appropriation bill with a view to increasing the allocation to food and agricultural production.
He lamented the allocation of a paltry N148 billion out of the N4.07 trillion which represents 3.7 per cent of the total budget.
Ukaoha explained that the agricultural sector is the largest employer of labour which also engages over 60% of the nationâ€™s workforce.
Explaining further, the groupâ€™s president said that food security has become one of the greatest challenges facing developing nations like Nigeria, adding that the availability and affordability of food items must be tackled if the government is serious about stemming poverty and under development.
His words: â€œThe greatest threat and insecurity that faces humanity and the world today, especially a poor and developing continent like Africa is the issue of food availability and affordability for her populace.
â€œFor Nigeria therefore, the political economy of effectively and efficiently feeding her teeming population is a challenge that must be tackled progressively, passionately and aggressively if the country is serious in stemming poverty and inequality and steady her development aspirations.â€
He noted that the allocation of 3.7 per cent of the entire budget to food and agriculture is a negation of the 2003 Maputo Declaration made by African leaders to which Nigeria affirmed her consent to commit 10 per cent of her annual budget to financing agriculture.
â€œThe present situation where Nigeria spends well over $3 billion annually on food importation is grossly unacceptable.
â€œThe development has starved our economy of the needed foreign exchange; impoverished our small farmers through dwindling patronage, income and capital to plough back into their small and medium scale farming operations which has led to massive exportation of jobs and this has greatly made the country to depend on foreign food to feed our people, a development that can be seen as a threat to the security and sovereignty of the country.
â€œIt is in this light that we in NANTS are worried that like previous budgets, Defence is again getting a hefty vote of the entire 2010 budget when Nigeria is not in a state of war nor preparing for one,â€ Ukaoha stated.