Don’t Tamper With Poor Man’s Ponmo – Leadership Editorial
Who is plotting to make the poor man’s delicacy, ponmo (animal hides and skin), disappear from his dining table? The minister of agriculture, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, seems to be a primary suspect. Recently, in Ibadan, he called for a law against the sale and widespread consumption of the animal product. He said that livestock farmers stood a good chance of making high dollar returns if hides and skin were tanned into leather. The minister expressed the hope that the National Assembly would accelerate work on the enabling law that would make the consumption of the product illegal.
Already, the process of dollarisation of cassava by which farmers are enticed to concentrate efforts on producing for export so as to earn dollars is making the by-products – garri, lafu, fufu and so on — inaccessible in the market. Thus, garri is threatening to be beyond the poor man’s reach. Now it is ponmo’s turn, no thanks to the frenzied craze for the almighty dollar.
We have nothing against any policy geared towards the enhancement of the nation’s ability to earn foreign exchange. The worry comes in when government and its agencies create the impression that it is all that matters: the welfare of the citizens is sacrificed on the altar of money and placed on a subordinate level. We are also aware of the government’s claim on food security. It pretends to be concerned about hunger among the populace and what it entails vis-a-vis the overall national security.
We want to assume that the minister and others in his camp are aware that, because of this dollar policy, garri is becoming almost unaffordable. They may be inclined to argue that the high cost would be an incentive for increased production. Maybe. But the primary objective must always be to satisfy local consumption and then the excess can be sold for whatever currency. That is the overriding line of thought elsewhere and Nigeria should not be different. It makes no sense when the citizens are put on edge just because someone wants to satisfy some warped economic policy. Only an insensitive government functionary would expect the citizens to earn dollars on empty stomach.
For many, ponmo is a delicacy, a constant in their menu. There is the argument that it has no nutritional value. But, surely, it gives the eater the psychological feeling that his meal is not naked. Do we want to deny him that too?
Before the law is rolled out, it should not be a blanket cover for all animal skin. Those who know say that the preferred skin used in tanneries is from goats and sheep. The lawmakers must take note of this and also give the farmer the option to decide how to sell his animal product including hides and skin. Only the dictates of market forces can determine this. By all means, the nkwobi joints must not be driven out of business.
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