President Muhammadu Buhari on April 30, visited US President Donald Trump following an invitation extended to him to discuss issues affecting Nigeria. Part of the issues on the meetings agenda was also on the interests of the two countries as well as their expectations going forward after they both held a press conference and issued statements thereafter.
At the meeting, Trump urged Buhari to remove trade barriers in a move that will allow additional US investment in the country. Trump said the US sends Nigeria more than $1 billion annually in foreign aid and that the US ought to get something in return for its financial contribution.
Therefore, Trump hinted that US would be investing substantially in Nigeria if the government could create a level playing field that “we have to, very much, ask for and maybe demand.” After the two leaders put the signing of trade agreement to bed, Trump announced that, “…we’ve discussed about agric trade, we will sell our agric products to Nigeria.That way, it will be good for our (USA) farmers and it will also be good to Nigeria…”
Contemptuously, the move has been stoking fire among Nigerian farmers as stakeholders in the agricultural space in the country described the move as the most disastrous discussion that when made public, which will never augur well for Nigeria and the economy. They argued it will double Nigeria’s import bill, which currently stands at $20 billion. This will also mount pressure on the naira.
The farmers alleged that it was a bit head scuffing that Buhari looked contented with signing an agreement that opens Nigerian borders to US agric produce, a move, they say, is capable of killing off any gains recorded in Nigeria’s local agriculture.
The farmers said by the time the US agric produce start coming in, it would crash the food prices since it is cheaper for the US farmers to produce as government supplies produce in large quantities. They said this would send Nigerian farmers packing. They warned Buhari not to turn Nigeria to a dumping centre for US agric produce.
Buhari’s decision to dance to Trump’s tune will defeat his government’s hyped fertiliser programme, which encourages farmers to return to farm. Recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo who spoke in Abeokuta, Ogun State, through his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, hit Buhari’s government for encouraging the US to export agricultural products to Nigeria. He said the president achieved nothing as being celebrated by his supporters after meeting with Trump.
Though it is not clear yet what agricultural commodities the Americans would be pushing to Nigeria with this new deal, it is noteworthy that America is home of the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) balcony in agricultural production, which Nigerians have been rejecting over the years.
With the deal in place, the question is; what would happen to the Nigerian farmers and workers in the agriculture value chain? Can Nigeria get the American firms to consider local production first in addition to importation?
Investigation revealed that Trump struck the deals with Nigeria because China is about to enforce new tax on American agricultural products in the next few weeks and President Trump needs new markets for American farm produce before calling the bluff of China.
Farmers alleged that, “Trump approached Nigeria, Brazil and Argentina to take American farm produce in exchange for security deals. Nigeria is the highest consumer of Chinese soybeans in the world. But with Nigeria signing an arms deal that includes military hardware transfer, 12 Tuscanos jets, training and parts, we can cut off China and embrace USA. So thought the President and his team! Trump clearly stated he was not interested in Nigeria’s oil or any other thing but to provide new markets for American farmers that will be affected by Chinese new tariff.”
Speaking with Daily Sun, the Deputy Managing Director of Peniel Gerar International Limited, Ojiefoh Enahoro Martins, said it is very unfortunate that Nigeria’s government couldn’t differentiate between trade and investment in agriculture, saying the country needs investors not traders.
He bemoaned: “My major concern is the unreasonable and unfruitful chorus promises made by the same government to empower we the farmers. On several occasions, our government has aborted our faith to continue with agriculture. Last time, government allowed importation of maize to Nigeria at the peak of harvest. Because we don’t have workable storage structure, we lost it. We are introducing American GMO products into Nigeria in a large scale and this is a setback healthwise.”
He said the Chinese are so organised at a point of increasing tax value for America imported agricultural products so as to help their farmers to thrive and grow their economy.
He said: “American farmers are at the profit receiving point while we mourn. They are coming in as traders not as investors. We are against trading deal but subscribe to investors in the agricultural sectors. We have land everywhere; we have farmers that are financially handicapped; what we need now is empowerment of farmers not competitors.”
He said farmers need agricultural direct investment deals not agro commodity trading deals, adding that Nigeria’s economy is going to freeze up because the borders are going to be flooded with unhealthy products and 90 per cent of Nigerian regulatory agencies are traditional. America’s ungodly deal is not going to grow our economy but theirs.
The Executive Director, GoGreen Africa Initiative, Ambassador Adeniyi Bunmi, said it is unfortunate that Nigeria has what people call policy summersault, noting that today, government will make a policy and tomorrow it brings up another thing.
He added: “We know Nigeria as an import-dependent country and one of the things this present government is pushing for is reduction in our level of importation by creating things that can easily get around us so we don’t bring everything in. That is what led to the rise of roadmap whereby everybody started going into rice farming and saying, come, this is something we can plant on our own here.
He said the deal would kill the remaining little effort in agribusiness because by the time everything comes in, “we already know that everything imported is far cheaper than what we produce in this country. You will now discover that nobody will want to accept what is being produced or processed in our agric value chain anymore.”