Food scarcity: FG urged to boost local production, farming
March 20, 2022
Recently, the Food and Agriculture Organisation predicted that about 19.4 million Nigerians may face acute food and nutrition insecurity between June and August.
This forecast came amid the unresolved rise in the prices of food items brought about largely by the insecurity that has driven farmers away from their farms on account of persistent attacks, destruction of yet-to-be harvested crops and the threat to their lives.
A financial information service hub, ProShare, reported that the activities of herdsmen, kidnappers and bandits had displaced farming communities, displaced about 2.6 million people and limited agricultural production. It added that the production of wheat in Borno State accounted for 30 per cent of the national wheat production but due to the activities of Boko Haram terrorist group, the state contributed almost nothing to the total of about 420,000 tonnes.
The insecurity situation is not the only culprit. In an earlier report by The Punch, economists identified the devaluation of the naira, bandits’ attacks on farming areas, increased prices of relative commodities and increased transportation cost as contributing factors to the increase.
Statista, in its list of 20 countries with the highest inflation rate in 2020, reported that Nigeria ranked 15th with an estimated inflation rate of 13.25 per cent while Pakistan ranked 20th with a 10.74 per cent inflation rate.
Also, in a monthly comparison of the consumer price index from 2019 -2021, Statista reported a 17 per cent increase in August 2021 as against August 2020 when Nigeria’s CPI stood at 391.5. As of Friday, information on the website of the Central Bank of Nigeria showed that the inflation rate as of February 2022 was 15.7 per cent.
Statista also reported an increase in the prevalence of undernourishment and food insecurity in the country, stating that “the share of population suffering from food insecurity increased from 35.6 per cent to 57.7 per cent between 2018 and 2020,” while the undernourished increased from 7.1 per cent to 14.6 per cent.
Furthermore, the sharp increase in the price of petroleum products has had a significant effect on the prices of food. A few days ago, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria decried the sharp increase in the price of Automotive Gas Oil, also known as Diesel, from N320 to N750. As a result, the breadmakers, under the aegis of Premium BreadMakers Association of Nigeria, threatened to shut down operations in the country.
The National Bureau of Statistics earlier reported a 36.98 per cent increase in the price of diesel between February 2021 and February 2022.
Continuing, the FAO said about 14.4 million Nigerians, including 385,000 internally displaced persons in 21 states and the Federal Capital Territory, were currently facing a food crisis.
In its Food Security Analysis report, also referred to as Cadre Harmonise, Lagos State was listed as having the highest number of food-insecure people among the 21 states, with its 1,780,194.
The listed states are Yobe, Borno, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kano, Bauchi, Enugu, Niger, Kebbi, Zamfara, Jigawa, Gombe, Benue, Abia, Cross River, Edo, Lagos, Plateau and Taraba.
FAO’s Country Representative in Nigeria, Mr Fred Kafeero, said the prevailing security challenges had continued to threaten food and nutrition security. It then called for a holistic approach towards national food systems transformation to achieve the 2030 agenda.
As reported by The Punch, the Cadre Harmonise further stated a persistent crisis and advocated a conscious and intensive effort to sustain current humanitarian support and government’s intervention schemes targeted at recovery and livelihoods for households.
Commenting on the issue, experts in the agricultural sector have urged the government to execute viable solutions to the food and nutrition security crisis both in the short and long run.
An agriculture expert and Chief Executive Officer, X-Ray Farms Consulting and AF Marketing, Africanfarmer Mogaji, said FAO’s prediction was a call to action for the government to pay attention to the possibility of a food crisis.
On what should be done, Mogaji urged the government to facilitate the commercial production of food products mostly consumed by the citizens.
To achieve this, Mogaji said, “The government does not need to put in the money but to create awareness of what is available in terms of land, dams, irrigation systems, seeds among others and where they are located for the benefit of cooperatives that understand the terrain and whose goal is to impact their members and make a profit.”
He added that the war between Russia and Ukraine, with Ukraine being the largest producer of Sunflower Oil and the eighth largest producer of wheat, also presented a possible scarcity.
The farmer further said, “The definition of cash crop in Nigeria needs to change. Why? We have the land and Sunflower Oil grows in every state in Nigeria. Gombe State is still the largest producer. So the government needs to encourage people to go into Sunflower Oil farming which is of global relevance. That way, people can grow the cash crop. Going forward, we then begin to process the oil ourselves.
“The government needs to check what is going to be available in the global market. For corn, Russia produces 60 per cent of global export, Ukraine produces 10 per cent of global export and China imports 99 per cent of their annual corn usage from Ukraine.
“So, the government needs to encourage us to grow corn here and facilitate the importation of seeds. Most of the ones that would do well anywhere in Nigeria are the foreign ones. Let people be able to produce in large volumes and then consider exporting to China such that as the Chinese gives us the loan and brings in their people, they should also buy something to take back home in exchange.”
Mogaji also stated that to combat the looming nutrition crisis, “We need to focus on foods that we have that can replace what we get from foreign sources. Nigeria has what we need if we maximise what we have. For example, there are various types of corn; there is Quality Protein Maize that is high in protein and essential amino acids. So if we can’t afford foreign foods, our children can eat the high protein corn with the high essential amino acids required for our body.
“The production of Vitamin A corn needs to be scaled up. We need to look at practical things, what is wasting that we can convert and once we do that, we will be fine.”
Mogaji called for a stronger collaboration between the ministries of water resources, agriculture and youths and development so that the land, water, farm implements and manpower needed to boost agricultural production would be guaranteed. He said the Central Bank of Nigeria would then be needed to provide the necessary funding.
On his part, a professor of Agricultural Economics, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Zakari Abdulsalam, said the food crisis would only create more hardship that would consequently worsen the current insecurity in the country.
On the measures to be put in place to prevent further food and nutrition crisis, Abdulsalam said, “In the short run, what could be done is to open the borders for food importation. However, in the long run, we have to plan ahead by ensuring that inputs are available to farmers. We have the potential to produce any crop in Nigeria, so we should not be hungry.”
He added that the current war between Ukraine and Russia would affect the importation of wheat and oil which Ukraine and Russia are major producers and exporters of. “It is going to have a personal effect on us and if the crisis continues, we are going to run into a problem,” he warned.
On the other hand, a professor of Agricultural Economics at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Ahmed Ala, said FAO’s prediction had only 25 to 30 per cent chance of happening and might not have a huge impact on the food production in the country.
He stated that despite the banditry in some parts of the country, farming activities were still ongoing, adding that whatever drop in food production that might happen would be minimal.
He added, “When you visit the rural markets, you would see how they are filled with all kinds of agricultural produce. There is no doubt that there is food inflation but that is attributed to the economic circumstances like the devaluation of naira, which has affected the prices of goods.
“Another issue is the Russia-Ukraine war, given the increase in the (crude) oil price because Ukraine and particularly Russia are major producers of oil in the world and they sell to the market. So, the war between them would affect the level of production of oil in the global market and consequently make the price of petrol go up.”
He added that the prices of other commodities and transportation would have an impact on the prices of food items.
He stated, “We need to begin to think of how we can improve on our production, as far as the usage of modern farm implements is concerned. We have come a long way. We have tillers that farmers can use, instead of engaging in the manual cultivation of their lands. We also need to do something about fertilizers; it is becoming very expensive and farmers would not be able to afford it.” ,
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