The Nigerian food market was recently invaded by a heavy consignment of bananas allegedly smuggled into the country from neighbouring countries. This could ruin the prospects of local farmers and threaten the national food security. According to media reports, the major markets at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, specifically in Maitama and Utako districts, were saturated with these foreign bananas that are said to be cheaper, sweeter, more attractive and longer-lasting. Its shelf life puts the local species in the shade and the competition between both species has naturally been unfair to the local species.
The species is said to last for more than 16 days without getting spoilt and for traders, this is a meaningful comparative advantage over the local species. If the trend of the importation is left unchecked, the farmers producing the local species and the traders distributing it are soon going to be left in the lurch and become indebted. It is easy to guess that these bananas are cheaper because correct import duties have not been paid on them even if the importation is permitted by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) agreements on such consumables. If the correct duties had been paid, their retail prices would have been prohibitive enough to discourage such an adventure.
Besides, the farmers and distributors of the local species deserve to be protected for obvious reasons. What kind of country offers employment to other countries’ nationals by sacrificing the interests of its own citizens? It would seem that Nigeria is adroit in such mindless involvements, especially when the selfish interests of investors are being taken care of to the detriment of the collective interests.
Reports in the media suggest that the Ministry of Agriculture is seemingly unperturbed by this untoward development and we think that this is a tragic response to the calamity portended by the undeterred importation of a consumable food item. If it was not in the place of the Ministry of Agriculture to confiscate the foreign species of bananas, at least it could still collect its samples for the purpose of scientific investigations. It is imperative for the ministry to find out certain attributes of this species. Why is it tastier? Why is it more enduring? Can the Nigerian soil and climate support its cultivation? Following this inquiry, something positive may be derived by the Ministry of Agriculture from an otherwise painful experience.
The invasion of the Nigerian market by this species of banana speaks volumes about the shoddy manner in which the control units of the relevant security agencies have been discharging their duties in the country. These bananas ought to have been immediately confiscated and delivered into the hands of the officials of the quarantine services for detailed analyses. We are alarmed by the relative ease with which various crimes are perpetrated in almost every sphere of the national life without as much as a whimper from the concerned authorities and departments. The invasion of the food market in Nigeria by an unapproved species of bananas also means that the country is pitiably vulnerable.
What if it was a dangerous or poisonous species that infiltrated the market? How many citizens would have been victims of the security agencies’ culpable negligence? We think that this unfortunate development ought to be thoroughly investigated in order to stop the trend of importing all sorts of things into the country. This is part of what food security is all about and it is simply befuddling how easily these unchecked food items get their pride of place in the food stalls of the Nigerian market.
The relevant security agencies, from the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to the Quarantine Services, should wake up and stop the influx of consumable items into the Nigerian markets, especially those for which local varieties are available.