Chamber of Commerce urges government to stabilise food prices

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) yesterday urged Federal Government to show more commitment to measures aimed at stabilizing food prices through improved food production, post-harvest management and transportation.

Mr Babatunde Ruwase, LCCI President, made the plea at the 2nd edition of the chamber’s quarterly state of the economy media briefing in Lagos, South-West Nigeria.

Ruwase said the plea was to reduce the inflation rate as reported for the month of May largely caused by volatility of food prices, Voice of Nigeria reports.

He expressed concerns over the general increase in the cost of living as reflected by increase in the inflation rate which rose to 11.40 percent in May, representing the highest rate since December 2018.

To that effect, Ruwase urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to institute a framework for sustained collaboration with stakeholders in the agricultural sector.

“The drop in the budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector from 2.23 percent in 2018 to 1.56 percent in 2019 does not reflect the government’s commitment to improving the country’s food situation.

“Bringing down food prices would also require active and decisive actions from the government.

“This is to put measures in place to reduce seasonal production of food crops and improve post-harvest operations to reduce the current volatility of food prices,” he said.

The increase in inflation rate was reported by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to be largely caused by faster growing food prices.

On the nation’s debt profile, Ruwase expressed concerns over the government’s plan to obtain an additional foreign loan to the tune of 2.7 billion dollars.

He said the action would invariably increase the nation’s overall debts portfolio.

The LCCI president implored the government to cut down on its debts by seeking other ways of raising funds and rigorously promote new investments to increase revenue.

He congratulated Dr Godwin Emefiele on his reappointment as the Governor of the CBN.

Ruwase lauded his various efforts toward supporting jobs creation, improving access to credit for MSMEs, intervention in the agricultural sector, among others.

The LCCI president, however, urged him to see his reappointment as an opportunity to re-assess, consolidate or re-strategize some measures put in place to grow the economy in the last five years.

He recommended a review of the current approach by the CBN to its schemes, particularly the Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme to increase MSMEs access to credit for the expected growth in the agricultural and manufacturing sector.

According to him, while the CBN claims that over one million farmers have benefited, experiences of farmers in some states, especially the South-West suggest otherwise.

He advised President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint a Minister of Petroleum in his new cabinet to oversee and co-ordinate activities of the petroleum industry and not just a Minister of State for Petroleum.

Ruwase advised that a seasoned technocrat with the requisite experience and knowledge of the industry should be appointed to serve in the capacity of the Minister of Petroleum and not a professional politician:

“We believe that the industry will grow better under a technocrat and seasoned petroleum minister and help accelerate the growth so much needed in the oil and gas sector of the economy.’’

Ruwase called for the timely constitution of the federal cabinet to reduce the feeling of uncertainty in the economic management space and the expeditious implementation of government programmes.