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FOOD CRISES: ECOWAS countries shut borders against free trade of farm produce   

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West Africa may have more challenges to contend with outside Niger, Bokina Faso and Mali’s break away from ECOWAS, sub regional economic bloc, as food security concern appear to have forced countries to shut their borders against mass trans border movements of farm produce.

Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Guinea appear to have caught in the fray of these trading snag, despite ECOWAS protocol promoting free trade and transport.

Last Friday’s report of Ivory Coast’s Coffee and Cocoa Council, CCC, helping the country’s national police to seize three trucks loaded with 1,500 bags of cocoa beans on the border with Guinea, appears not to be an isolated case according DDM’s findings.

CCC said that its collaboration with security forces in the seizure of 100 tons of cocoa.

It reported the trucks to the police, who stopped them in the town of Sipilou, 4 km (2.5 miles) from Guinea. “We have made a firm commitment to reduce cocoa smuggling to neighbouring countries this year, and we are determined to succeed in this mission,” CCC CEO Yves Brahima Kone, was reported to have said.

As learnt, low farmgate prices compared with neighbouring countries have made Ivory Coast the world’s top producer of the main ingredient in chocolate, a target for smugglers from neighbouring Liberia and Guinea where beans fetch higher prices.

A kilogram of cocoa currently costs between 1,600 CFA francs and 1,700 CFA francs ($2.63-$2.80) in Guinea and Liberia due to the rise in global prices, according to cooperatives and buyers based in Ivory Coast’s western region, on the border with those countries.

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That compares with 1,000 CFA francs a kilogram in Ivory Coast, where the price is fixed and guaranteed throughout the year.

Global cocoa prices have hit record highs in recent months amid worries about a bean deficit this season and with concerns growing for the next. In the cocoa growing regions, the concern over shortages has fuelled a scramble for beans and smuggling.

But these are not isolated incidences.

Earlier last week in Nigeria, Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq, a governor of Kwara, North Central Nigeria, stated neighboring countries have been buying up food items from farm hubs in Nigeria to sell at the global market.

With the West African CFA currency trading as twice of naira, its Nigerian counterpart, food from the subregion’s largest economy is being used to trade by its neighbors, the governor contended.

Abdulrazaq is chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, a powerful committee of sub-national chief executives.

AbdulRazaq, made this profound observation when he led the Governors of Taraba(Dr. Agbu Kefas),Ondo (Lucky Aiyedatiwa), and Kogi(Ahmed Usman Ododo), on a work visit to the Ministers of Agriculture and Food Security at the headquarters of the Ministry in Abuja.

“We have noted that food in Nigeria is the cheapest in West Africa and our neighbours are using our food to trade.

“They are taking our soya bean and other stuffs to make foreign exchange for themselves.” Abdulrazaq explained, last week on Monday, while in company of three of his governor colleagues.

He maintained that food security should be the most paramount and urgent thing to tackle in the country in view of the skyrocketing prices of food items in the market.

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Kwara his state, shares border with Benin Republic, along the food hub corridor stretching in-between both countries.

The country recorded food riot in Mina, Niger state, another North Central stake on Monday.

According to Governor Abdulrazaq, food produced in Nigeria is the cheapest in West African region due to the current devaluation of naira.

Ivory Coast appears to have gone beyond talks in protecting its farm produce unlike Nigeria.

Ivory Coast and neighbouring Ghana, the world’s second biggest producer, have said smuggling hampers their effort to meet their yearly production target.

In October, Kone promised to tackle the issue.

 


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