The Federal Government on Thursday ordered the immediate release of 102,000 metric tonnes of rice and maize.
About 40,000 tonnes is to be released from the strategic grain reserves while private rice millers are to provide 60,000 tonnes.
Government is hoping that the release will crash the price of the commodities in the country.
Mohammed Idris, Minister of Information and National Orientation, stated this while fielding questions from correspondents after the second meeting of the Presidential Food Initiative at the Presidential Villa, Abuja
He said President Bola Tinubu has directed that food will be made available, “whatever it will takes”
The first session of the presidential initiative was held on Wednesday as government expressed concern about the protests particularly the one that occurred in Minna, Niger State.
While noting that the follow up meeting “was again on the issue of difficulty,” he said government has come up with a number of measures to ensure that food becomes more readily available to Nigerians.
He said: “The first one is that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has been directed to release about 42,000 metric tons of maize, millet, garri and other commodities in their strategic reserve so that these items will be made available to Nigerians; 42000 metric tons immediately.
“The second one is that we have held meetings with the rice Millers Association of Nigeria, those who are responsible for producing this rice and we have asked them to open up their stores.
“They’ve told us that they can guarantee about 60,000 metric tons of rice. This will be made available and we know that that is enough to take Nigerians the next one month to six weeks, perhaps up to two months 60,000 metric tons.
“They have agreed that they will make that available to Nigerians to bring it out to the market so that food made available.
“Now, the whole idea of this is to crash the cost of these food items. And these are measures that will happen immediately.
“42,000 metric tonnes from the strategic government reserve, about 60,000 metric tonnes of rice from the rice Millers Association, they have them in all their storage facilities and government in conjunction with them after this exhaustive meeting, has directed that they also bring this out immediately so that you food, I mean the price of rice will come down significantly.
“Now, the third item is that the government is also looking at the possibility, if it becomes absolutely necessary as an interim measure on the short run, to also import some of these commodities immediately so that these commodities can be made available to Nigerians immediately within the next couple of weeks.
“Now, with all these emergency measures, there is of course a directive to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to invest massively in conjunction with Nigerian farmers and other producers so that we can have better season coming up shortly.
“Now, we all know that dry season farming is happening, that will take effect very shortly, and that we hope will also contribute, because as soon as the dry season farming gets underway, it is the hope of government that food prices will also also come down.
“Like I said, these are all measures that are taken to immediately, and as an emergency measure bring down the cost of food items. In the long run Federal Ministry of Agriculture is going to invest massively, so that Nigeria will recover its potential as a food basket and we don’t expect that going forward we are going to be faced with these challenges again.
“Now, government of course is also looking at all those who are hoarding these commodities because actually these commodities are available in the stores of many traders.
“Government is appealing to them, that they should open up these stores, make these commodities available in the interest of our nation. There is no point when the whole country is looking for this food, you are looking up this products so that you make more more money and then Nigerians suffer.
“Of course, government will not fold his arms. We know where all these major traders are. We know where all these major stores are. And if they don’t respond by bringing these commodities to the market, government will take appropriate measures to ensure that these products are made available to Nigerians.
“Well, you cannot hold the nation to ransom. You cannot have these commodities and you’re hoarding them in your stores when we all need them. We are in an emergency situation and we’ll take emergency measures to make sure that this food is available to Nigerian,” he added.
On how much the commodities would be sold, the minister said the issue was considered in the meeting even though the government’s focus is to ensure availability.
He explained: “Yes, the government has looked at that and what I can tell you is that whatever the government will do to ensure that this food is made available to Nigerians at an affordable cost, the government will do that.“