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Con­cerns over food prices as Nige­ria cel­e­brates World Food Day

- By Hus­sein Ya­haya & Vin­cent A. Yusuf Business · Hunger · Nigeria News · Farm Equipment · Food Industry · Healthy Living · Agriculture · Healthy Food · Livestock Industry · Social Issues · Society · Industries · Nigeria · United Nations · N26 (bank) · Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development · Rural Development · Abuja · Morocco · The German government · Malabo · Food and Agriculture Organization · Agricultural Research Council of South Africa

As Nige­ria joins the rest of the world to­day to cel­e­brate Food Day, there are con­cerns among var­i­ous stake­hold­ers over the high prices of food items in the coun­try de­spite the on­go­ing har­vest.

World Food Day is an in­ter­na­tional day marked an­nu­ally on Oc­to­ber 16 to com­mem­o­rate the found­ing of the United Na­tions’ Food and Agri­cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion (FAO).

Although, this year’s event has its theme as ‘Food Safety, Ev­ery­one’s Busi­ness’, and is aimed at pro­mot­ing global food safety aware­ness and call­ing upon rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers to take ac­tion, af­ford­abil­ity of food items as a re­sult of in­creas­ing prices re­mains a thing of con­cern for many Nige­ri­ans.

This year, the COVID-19, flood dis­as­ters and drought up north have strained the coun­try’s food sys­tems and raised con­cern over food in­se­cu­rity, cou­pled with prices re­main­ing high for most ci­ti­zens de­spite the on­go­ing har­vest. This time last year, prices of most grains were very low.

A 100kg bag of maize which presently sells between N14,000 and N17,000, depend­ing on lo­ca­tion, was sold for between N8,000 and N10,000 same time last year.

Sim­i­larly, a 50kg bag of lo­cal rice which now sells for between N23,000 and N26,000 was sold for N14 and N18,000 last year same time depend­ing on lo­ca­tion.

The trend is the same with other food items like sorghum, mil­let etc.

Tra­di­tion­ally, prices of pro­duce fall at har­vest time till around December but con­sumers be­lieve the re­duc­tion in the price this year is far be­low the usual prac­tice.

Although agri­cul­ture has re­ceived sig­nif­i­cant sup­port since 2016, some of the chal­lenges of food pro­duc­tion have re­mained, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to ac­cess to mar­ket, mech­a­ni­sa­tion, poor re­search and de­vel­op­ment fund­ing, un­will­ing­ness of com­mer­cial banks to fund the sec­tor, poor value chain de­vel­op­ment pol­icy and weak ac­cess to im­proved seeds/ seedlings.

On Tues­day, the Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture and Rural De­vel­op­ment, Al­haji Muham­mad Sabo Nanono, in an in­ter­view with jour­nal­ists as part of ac­tiv­i­ties mark­ing the World Food Day, itemised the achieve­ments of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment through it agri­cul­tural poli­cies and pro­grammes, which in­cluded an in­crease in ma­jor sta­ple crops pro­duc­tion like maize, rice, cas­sava etc.

He said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers the rel­e­vance of erad­i­cat­ing poverty and hunger and trans­form­ing the food pro­duc­tion sys­tems to en­sure sus­tain­able food se­cu­rity but ad­mit­ted that the ef­fects of the COVID-19 pan­demic and cli­mate change are con­tribut­ing to low pro­duc­tiv­ity in the sec­tor.

“This year, hun­dreds of thou­sands of hectares of rice, maize and sorghum and live­stock and fish­eries have been af­fected by the dev­as­tat­ing flood in the coun­try.

“The min­istry has raised its na­tional food re­serve stock to 109,657MT, a fig­ure ex­pected to be in­creased to 219,900MT by the end of 2020.

“Since the be­gin­ning of the 2020 farm­ing sea­son, the min­istry has dis­trib­uted in­puts in states across the coun­try to boost food pro­duc­tion Nige­ria, last year recorded a boost in the pro­duc­tion of its ma­jor sta­ple crops. Ac­cord­ing to data from the min­istry, maize and rice pro­duc­tion rose from 12.8 and 12.3 to 13.94 and 14.28 mil­lion met­ric tonnes, re­spec­tively last year,” Al­haji Muham­mad said.

But ex­perts and stake­hold­ers said the gov­ern­ment has a lot to do if the na­tion must achieve food self-suf­fi­ciency.

Mrs Agnes Ajayi, an Abuja res­i­dent, said the only time the ci­ti­zens, es­pe­cially the or­di­nary ones would ap­pre­ci­ate the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts on food suf­fi­ciency, is when they start to en­joy a rel­a­tively low prices for farm pro­duce.

She said: “There is no gram­mar you will speak to a per­son that can­not af­ford to buy rice, se­movita or maize for his/her fam­ily be­cause of high cost and you ex­pect him/her to lis­ten or be­lieve you.

“Some of us that are civil ser­vants and can get lit­tle money at the end of the month may tend to un­der­stand and be pa­tient with the gov­ern­ment but how will you con­vince some­one that has no job or has lost his job or those in rural com­mu­ni­ties that can hardly feed their fam­i­lies be­cause ban­dits have chased them out of their farms’.

“Let me be frank with you, that is part of the rea­sons you see many peo­ple join­ing the protests you are see­ing here and there. Peo­ple are hun­gry, my brother,’’ she said.

Dr Sa­maila Aliyu, an agron­o­mist in Abuja, said there was still more to be done but noted that the coun­try was mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

“Agri­cul­ture has never got­ten the kind of sup­port it got in the last three years, but years of ne­glect means there is a lot of work. The re­ha­bil­i­tated fer­tiliser blend­ing plants and the bi­lat­eral agree­ment with Morocco in phos­phate rock guar­an­teed sta­ble fer­tiliser prices and also made it avail­able.

“Re­stric­tion of im­ports also pro­vided the op­por­tu­nity for lo­cal pro­duce to ap­pre­ci­ate and in the process qual­ity im­proved,” he said.

The agron­o­mist stressed that ar­eas of fo­cus should be on seed and mech­a­niza­tion not nec­es­sar­ily trac­tors, but sim­ple, af­ford­able ma­chines that the small­holder can use.

“Ex­ten­sion ser­vices also re­quire at­ten­tion from both pub­lic and pri­vate quar­ters. With a ris­ing pop­u­la­tion, Nige­ria can­not af­ford to lose mo­men­tum for it to be able to feed its ci­ti­zens and even tap the ex­port mar­ket,” he added.

On his part, the Na­tional Pres­i­dent of the All Farmers As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (AFAN), Ar­chi­tect Kabiru Ibrahim, de­scribed the coun­try’s agri­cul­tural poli­cies and pro­grammes as “a mixed grill of suc­cesses and fail­ures”, but noted that “with de­ter­mi­na­tion, it will be uhuru for our food sys­tem if we take de­ci­sive ac­tion to rein­vig­o­rate it.”

He opined that the “self­less and fo­cused im­ple­men­ta­tion of the pol­icy of this ad­min­is­tra­tion by bet­ter-equipped driv­ers will lead to the at­tain­ment of food suf­fi­ciency rapidly and sus­tain­ably.”

He lamented that ‘there ap­pears to be a dis­con­nect between the thrust of the Green Al­ter­na­tive (the coun­try’s agri­cul­ture pol­icy doc­u­ment) and the psy­che of the Fed­eral Min­istry Agri­cul­ture Rural De­vel­op­ment es­pe­cially around cre­at­ing the right kind of syn­ergy between the var­i­ous agen­cies and MDAs.”

The AFAN pres­i­dent said the need to get the Na­tional Agri­cul­tural Seed Coun­cil, Agri­cul­tural Re­search Coun­cil Nige­ria and other agen­cies to be part of what he called “a Food Se­cu­rity Direc­torate” was now more than ever de­sir­able.

A farmer, Mr Peter Adam Eloyi, said the coun­try’s food pro­duc­tion sys­tem was not sus­tain­able, adding that, that will be at­tained only when we be­gin to en­cour­age or­ganic agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion that prof­its peo­ple and the planet.

“The gov­ern­ment pol­icy should fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing the or­ganic agri­cul­ture sec­tor in line with the Mal­abo Dec­la­ra­tion.

“In­vest­ing in sus­tain­able eco­log­i­cal or­ganic agri­cul­ture and value chain in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment are the surest ways to guar­an­tee food se­cu­rity in Nige­ria,” he said.

 ?? Photo Ma­gaji Isa Hunkuyi. ?? Hawan Mika yam mar­kets in Yorro Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area of Taraba State
Photo Ma­gaji Isa Hunkuyi. Hawan Mika yam mar­kets in Yorro Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area of Taraba State

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