Written by Workers' Alternative Wednesday, 10 September 2008 14:55
71% of Nigerian workforce engages in Agriculture. Over 90% of Nigeria’s Agricultural output comes from peasant farmers who dwell in remote rural areas where 60% of 150 Million of total population lives. Agricultural landholdings is generally small and scattered, average number of farm plots per household ranges between 2 and 28 plots increasing from South to North. Nigeria cultivates over 25 Millions hectares of land for various food crops.
Despite all these obviously abundant human and natural resources, Nigeria is still unable to feed her citizens. Nigeria produces only 500,000 tonnes of rice while the annual consumption is 2.5 million tones. Nigeria is the world's second-largest rice importer after Singapore. Before now, Nigeria spent over $350 Million on rice importation alone. Now there is a global food crisis; can Nigeria ruling class turns things round overnight?
Why the crisis?
The present world food crisis is primarily a grains shortages crisis. Annual world grains output has been declining for decades. It was estimated at 1,900 Million tons or less in 1995, this was a time when over 3,000 Million tons of grains produced annually is required to meet global dietary need. Today, world grains carryover stocks are at the same absolute level they were over 25 years ago. Stocks have dropped from 460-490 million metric tons in the late 1980s’ down to less than 250 Millions tons in 1995-the level of stock in 1969. Scores of countries have gone from national self-sufficiency in basic grains, to import dependency or donated cereals aid. But now, the grains are not even there for grab.
Various reasons have been advanced as the cause, mainly from bourgeois apologists. Nature is first to be blamed; Myanmar cyclone that flooded 5000 square kilometers has been blamed, flood in Indonesia and Sri Lanka are also mentioned. But how do you explain a colossal reduction in the stock that brought 1995 stock to 1969 level while the population keeps on growing? Devalued dollar has been blamed, high prices of petrol and so on. But what was the value of Dollar in 1995? How much was the petrol during this period in question? No way, these reasons are one sided and could not completely explain what went wrong. Necessity sometimes expresses itself as an accident, what is happening is a necessary product of Capitalism in its present senile stage. Capitalism reigns in anarchy. Capitalism means domination of non-living over living, of profit over labor and most accurately, Capitalism means horror without end. Present food crisis links directly to the fact from CIA World Fact Book of January 2008, which reveals that of 46,660,000 (figures in millions of US Dollars) world GDP, Agriculture, is just 4% of this sum, Industry 32%, while service sector carries a whopping 64% of total GDP. Capitalists want to make money out of money, without taking any risk of production. More capital is going to speculative businesses and stocks, under disguises of services. Capitalism does not exist for the benefit of human being, but for profit. It is taking money away from productive investment, to gambling and weapons of mass destructions. It brings life of luxury to diminishing few and leading to misery for ever expanding majority. What we are presently experiencing is inevitable outcome of the way capitalism works. All the aforementioned reasons advanced by bourgeois apologists are just the last straw that broke the camel’s back. As if this is not enough inhumanity against man, the food that is not enough to meet our dietary needs is now being used for biofuels. Capitalist prefers fueling a car to feeding a hungry man. A forecast issued by the International Food Policy Research Institute points out that a termination of the swindle of subsidies for biofuels production would result in immediate 20% price reductions for corn, 14% for manioc, and 11% for wheat, but does this appeal to defenders of a system that survives on human misery?
How sincere is Ruling Class attempt to resolve the crisis?
Working class in Nigeria, as in any other countries should not be carried away with the crocodile tears being shed by bourgeoisies. They are pretending as if they just discovered today, that over 2 Billions Human beings have always been living without food, decent shelter and good clothes, that in Nigeria for instance, 71% of the population lives with less than 1% a day, that over 1 Million children die annually in Africa of malarial. 26,500-30,000 children die each day due to poverty. Tens of Millions die simply because they are poor. No access to good Medicare, education, electricity and other modern amenities. What alarmed the ruling class is spate of protest, bloody riot of the people, sweeping round the world. It is estimated that Food related protest is going on in over 40 countries. A Government has been swept off in Haiti as a result. Egypt is in turmoil. Senegal experienced one of the bloodiest rioting in the recent past, all for food. Masses have been pushed to the limit of their tolerances. Trotsky said many years ago, that Bourgeoisies will only concede a little to the masses when it is threatened to lose everything. What alarmed the ruling classes is not the deplorable, unfortunate condition of the people, but the fear of losing control, of losing their properties, fear of people moving farther than limit set by the labor leadership, fear of revolution. If people have been docile, Ruling class would have simply treated this crisis the way they treat all previous injustices against humanity, and begin to blame people and nature for all the anguish as they fond of doing.
Can Nigerian Government resolve the crisis?
Nigerian Government is in a far better position today to carry this deceit to a far extent. Nigerian Government is presently in money, thanks to petrol-dollar. As a result of this, Government can afford to completely remove all duties and taxes on imported grains as they announced 2 weeks ago. Nigerian Government has concluded plans with Thailand, Indian and American Government to import 500,000 tons of rice to flood Nigerian market. The first batch of the consignment will enter Nigeria by the middle of June. The plan is to sell this rice at half its price to the people. Government has also promised to pump 100 Billion naira into Agriculture as a long time solution to the food shortage. With petrol at over $130 per barrel, Nigerian Government can promise heaven and earth.
But there are series of challenges that confront Nigerian ruling class, which makes all these emergency measures laughable. First of this is the issue of corruption. Corruption is life wire of any regime in backward countries like Nigeria; only Government of the working class can end corruption. Most of this rice will not reach the ordinary people that need it.
A very innocent and ordinary question can be asked; why can’t the Government carries out a massive cultivation of the land to grow grain especially rice, corn and wheat that can grow in Nigeria? This step is impermissible under Capitalism. The policy as dictated by IMF/World Bank is that Government has no business doing business. Capitalist Government exists for the few and thrives only when there is mass poverty and misery. The massive importation will further undermine the already sick local production. What they cannot do for decades, will require a miracle for them to urgently do now. Though, now there is free money to order for 500,000 tons of rice, to manage the removal of taxes and duties on grain importation, in short, to carry out a form of deception, this free money will not always be there. Rather than this money solving the food problem; under capitalism it will exacerbate it, it will further undermine the local production, it will further fuel corruption and further destabilize already unstable political atmosphere.
Present food crisis is a necessary outcome of the workings of capitalism; a capitalist Nigeria is absolutely incapable of solving this fundamental problem. Just as it is incapable of uniting Nigerians, just as it is incapable of developing Industry, as it is incapable of building modern infrastructure, of ending corruption and most deplorably of ending the misery of Nigerians, to expect it to resolve this one is to expect Lion to eat grass. Only a socialist Nigeria, under a democratic control of the working class can permanently end various crises we are saddled with.