President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop issuing foreign exchange for food and fertiliser imports, according to a statement by his spokesman.
It follows a similar order the president issued last year that the nominally-independent bank only partly followed, with some food importers still receiving foreign exchange.
But the recent directive will completely ban providing foreign currency for all imported food and fertiliser, the spokesman told Reuters. “Nobody importing food should be given money,” Buhari said.
Since his election in 2015, Buhari has sought to cut foreign imports, particularly agricultural products. Expanding Nigeria’s farm sector is a key pillar of his economic policy.
But the bans on imports like rice have seen prices surge, sparking widespread frustration.
Nigeria’s foreign reserves have been battered as the central bank spends billions of dollars on costly programmes such as propping up the local naira currency despite double-digit inflation.
There was no immediate, public reaction from the Central Bank to Buhari’s comments, though its governor was present at the meeting where the order was given.