THE Federal Government has inaugurated a committee to ensure the implementation of its ban on foreigners from purchasing agricultural products directly from farmers in Nigeria.

The minister of Industry and Trade, Adeniyi Adebayo, inaugurated the inter-ministerial standing committee today in Abuja to oversee the implementation of a memo of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which approved the ban on foreigners or their agents from buying at farm gates across the country.

With the approval, only licensed local buying agents who must be registered by the relevant national commodity associations are allowed to buy goods directly from the farmers and sell to the foreigners.

Adebayo explained that the memo was aimed at addressing the challenges impeding the development of the agricultural commodity sub-sector of the economy, curtailing unfair trade malpractices, curbing exploitation of Nigerian farmers by foreigners, and promoting competitive premium pricing as impetus for increased productivity.

He decried the exploitation of farmers by foreigners whom he accused of coming to Nigeria to buy agricultural commodities at the farm gates but offered farmers prices that were below market value.

“This situation has, indeed, led to the failure of many contractual agreements between farmers and indigenous off-takers. It has also affected the production capacity of our local factories due to the fact that foreigners buy off supplies and deprive the factories of required stocks.

“The current practice of direct purchases of agricultural commodities at unfair prices by foreigners at our farm gates poses serious dangers, which include reduction in farmers’ income, declining productivity in the agricultural sector, unemployment and insecurity,” he said.

Saying a number of activities had been outlined for implementation, the minister added that the committee was expected to ensure proper articulation and implementation of the activities for the growth and development of the Nigerian economy.

He charged the committee to come up with the appropriate mechanism and guidelines for implementation of the approved FEC memo, as well as liaise with states, local governments and other relevant stakeholders nationwide to enforce compliance with the ban.

Other terms of reference for the committee include facilitating establishment of enforcement organs in the states and local governments, facilitating signing of an Executive Order by the President, and specifying penalties and fines for violators.

The Committee is also expected to liaise with the state governments for establishment of commodity aggregation centres for export in some strategic locations nationwide and doing periodic assessment (quarterly) on the implementation.

The chairman of the committee, Suleiman Audu, expressed the readiness of the committee to provide the required leadership and coordination to ensure efficient implementation of its mandate.

Audu appreciated the government for the confidence reposed in the committee members and pledged on their behalf not to disappoint the government on the “important assignment.”

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Written By Ewuwuni Onnoghen-Theophilus (Mrs.), LL.M, MCIArb.

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