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Combating food crisis: South – West stakeholders urge FG to restock silos

9 months ago | 511


STAKEHOLDERS from the South- West
Nexim
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STAKEHOLDERS from the South- West have urged the Federal Government to restock existing silos all over the country as one way of preventing impending food crisis.

The stakeholders spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) during a survey on the preparedness of government and the people for the food crisis already predicted by Agriculture experts in the country.

Dr Nehemiah Danbaba, the Head of National Cereals Research Institute, Ibadan says currently, Nigeria has a total of 33 government – owned grains silos with a capacity of 1.3 Million Metric Tonnes (MMT).

Danbaba affirms that available statistics indicate that significant quantity of the grains have been released by government as palliative for COVID-19 pandemic, and to tackle insurgency and global weather change.

According to him, the Food Security and Nutrition World reports by FAO, in collaboration with IFAD, UNICEF and WFP indicate that over 86 million Nigerians, out of 200 million estimated population, face moderate or severe food insecurity.

“Therefore, in case of any slight food shortage, the available grains, if not restocked, may not adequately meet the food needs of Nigerians.

“The national rice demand, for example, is currently about 7.4 MMT and the domestic production is about 5.6 MMT; therefore, having a national reserve above 7 MMT will be adequate for an annual food shortage.

“It seems only the Federal Government is putting effort in mopping grains into the national strategic food reserve, with little or no efforts from the states and local governments.

“If this trend is not reversed, the little reserves by the Federal Government will not be enough for us to say the nation is prepared,” Danbaba said.

He urged governments at all levels to prioritise agriculture, especially the participation of states and local governments.

Also, the Oyo State Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr John Olateru, says there is no food security in Nigeria, while costs of inputs and labour for the farmers are high.

“Farmers, who are ready to work to produce more, should be encouraged financially, government should ensure that incentives get directly to the genuine farmers, not political farmers,” Olateru said.

Mr Olawale Ajani, a farmer and the Oyo chairman of Maize Association of Nigeria says consumption of grains such as maize, beans, millet and soybeans in Nigeria is high, while they are needed in large quantities on regular basis.

“To be prepared for imminent food crisis, grains production must be increased and more silos must be built at the national and state levels.

“Also, small and middle scale farmers should be empowered to build low cost barns using available materials,” Ajani said.

From Ekiti, the state government says that everything humanly possible is being done to avoid incidence of food crisis in the area.

The Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, Dr Olabode Adetoyi says the government has resolved to return agriculture to its days of glory when Ekiti was the food basket of the nation.

Adetoyi said this made government to adopt agriculture as one of the five pillars of the administration.

According to him, it has been made known by Governor Kayode Fayemi that the administration has so far attracted about 100 million dollars agricultural investment to the state.

Adetoyi said the investment was in areas where Ekiti had comparative advantage, including rice, cassava value chain and milk production.

He said the administration in Ekiti aimed at increasing the state’s contributions to agricultural development, particularly rice production from 400,000 tonnes to 1.5 million tonnes yearly.

Adetoyi said the government, through the Private, Public Partnership arrangement, had attracted investors to boost agriculture in Ekiti.

He said one of the measures also included a recent peace meeting, facilitated by government, and the consequent registration exercise of herdsmen and farmers in the state.

According to Adetoyi, this is aimed at ensuring peace in the farms, as well as stemming the tide of incessant clashes between farmers and herders, capable of leading to food crisis.

He recalled that the meeting was also attended by government officials, traditional rulers and the leaderships of herders, farmers and various ethnic nationalities, including the Fulani, Hausa, Ebira and Igede.

The commissioner said other steps being taken by the state government to ensure lasting peace between herders and farmers included the ban on night grazing and using of under-aged herders in Ekiti.

He said that the essence of the registration was to increase food security in the state without fear of attacks from either side.

“Food rate is just growing at 2.5 per cent. While our population is increasing at 2.8 to 3 per cent, the food requirement is at 3 to 3.2 per cent.

“The essence of this now is that there is a demand and supply gap, which we need to close.

“What is causing it is insecurity and we want to tackle it headlong in Ekiti so that people can be able to go back to the farms and produce in higher quantity,” Adetoyi said.

He said the state had in May, 2021, made history for being the first state in Southern Nigeria to witness launching of Rice Pyramid project by the Central Bank.

Adetoyi said the project was to generate no fewer than 12,000 jobs for rice farmers, who would, in turn, create additional 50,000 jobs at full production across the rice value chain within a year.

Mr Olufemi Daramola, Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Ekiti, said the Federal Government, through the Ministry, had recently distributed inputs for cultivation of 150 hectares of rice farm in Ekiti.

Daramola said this was part of measures to enhance food security in Nigeria.

He said the inputs included, 50 kilogramme bags of certified rice seed,(FARO 44), bags of NPK and Urea fertilisers, liters of soil amender, pesticides and herbicides.

Daramola said the Federal Government, in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, decided to support 150 rice farmers in Ekiti to increase rice production in the country.

“Basically, the intervention is aimed at enhancing food security and to increase farmers’ income and livelihood,” he said.

On the state of federal silos in Ado-Ekiti, Daramola assured that they would be made to function optimally.

An agriculture expert in the state, Mr James Mayowa, said, “the silos looted across the country should be re-stocked and guarded, as well as utilised for efficient post-harvest grain reserve services.”

In Osun State, Mr Olugbenga Atoyebi, the state Coordinator of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the Federal Government had a 250,000 tonnes capacity silo in the state to guard against food shortages.

Atoyebi said that the silo located in Ilesa town, was filled with grains for the benefit of the state and the country at large.

He explained that the Federal Government had put in place series of empowerment programmes to encourage farming and promotion of agriculture food value chain to ensure food sufficiency.

The coordinator said the Federal Government, through the ministry, had put in motion rural development schemes where farmers were granted loans and grants to produce food in surplus.

Atoyebi said government usually bought the surplus farm produce from farmers after harvest.

He said the government was also empowering farmers in terms of food and animal production, as well as encouraging agriculture business to prevent food crisis.

Mr Sulaimon Araokanmi, the Osun Chairman of AFAN said farmers needed more intervention from the government to produce enough food for future storage.

Araokanmi said farmers in the state were barely producing enough food crops to sustain themselves, adding that they needed government to come to their aid to boost productivity.

The AFAN chairman, who noted that farmers were ready to produce food for storage, however, said they were not currently producing enough, much less storing against the future.

He called on government at all levels to come to the aid of farmers to enable them produce surplus for storage.

Also, Prof. Babatunde Sosan, the Head, Crop Production and Protection Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said loans being provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria, Bank of Industry, and Bank of Agriculture to farmers for food production were not reaching them.

Sosan said this was affecting adequate preparation for food storage against future food shortages.

According to him, the population of Nigeria is increasing daily without a corresponding increase in food production.

Sosan said the bulk of food produced was from small scale farmers, who represented about 70 per cent of the farming population.

He urged the Federal Government to reach out to the real farmers at the grassroots and not political farmers, for large scale production and storage.

According to Sosan, most of the reserved grains have been released for the masses during the COVID-19 lockdown, without enough grains in the silos against imminent food crisis in the country.

The Chairman, Ondo State Agricultural Commodities’ Association, Mr Gbenga Obaweya, said the country was already enmeshed in a food crisis.

“Prices of food are soaring and it is not really translating to higher profit for farmers.

“Food is in short supply and it doesn’t appear that it will abate soon.

“And strategic reserves for food appear not to be in large quantities for the government to release them often to check escalating prices,” Obaweya said.

He urged authorities in the country to take urgent steps and place ban on open grazing, which he said, had wreaked havoc on farm produce.

Obaweya said there should be improved security network and “food aggregation and guaranteed prices with heavy subsidies for agricultural inputs”.

According to him, government should encourage and support irrigation systems in the South, including effective utilisation of existing dams that are presently unutilised.

Also, Mr Bankole Aderemi, a tomato farmer in Oba-Ile, Akure, said that Nigeria was not well prepared nor proactive for food crisis, because there were no effective food security programmes in place.

Aderemi said that “food security exists when all people at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

He urged government at the centre and at the various states to provide more subsidies that would go directly to farmers, instead of being hijacked by politicians.

Aderemi added that farmers needed empowerment for mechanised farming with strict supervision and security of farmers and their farmlands with effective storage facilities.

In his contribution, Mr Michael Bayode, a maize and cassava farmer, attributed the increase in the cost of foodstuff in the country to the clashes between farmers and herders.

Bayode said that it had become imperative for government at all levels to take proactive measures to address food crisis.

“I am not too sure that our country is prepared for food crisis, because herders have driven many farmers away from farming and, our youths are not ready to go into farming as well.

“Now, as COVID-19 has affected the country’s economy, the government needs to continue engaging real farmers through soft loans, subsidised tractors for farmers, and also focus on rural roads; which will reduce the price of food,” he said.

Mr Olusegun Dasaolu, a former Chairman, Ogun branch of AFAN, also confirms that Nigeria is already in a situation of food crisis.

Dasaolu said there were inadequate silos in the country, adding that the reserves in the available ones had been depleted.

“You can only talk about reserves when there is more than enough production.

“The activities of terrorists had led to the challenge of the internally displaced persons, who could no longer produce anything and have continued for many years to rely solely on the government for their daily needs.

“The situation has wiped off the reserves in the available silos across the country,” he said.

Dasaolu, who observed an inverse relationship between growth in Nigeria’s population and agricultural production, declared that the nation had no reserve to rely on.

“While our population is fast increasing, agricultural production is declining; so, we cannot talk about reserves,” he said.

Proffering solution, Dasaolu called on the Federal Government to take extra measures in checking herders and farmers clashes across the country, while activities of terrorists in the North should be tackled.

He also called for departure from dependence on rainfall for agricultural production, adding that the country needed effective irrigation system to ensure that planting could be carried out round the year.

Also, Mrs Oluwaseyi Olugbere, Acting Project Manager, Agriculture Sector, Ogun Economic Transformation Project, said solution to the imminent food crisis was in rural development.

Olugbere said Nigeria’s food was being produced by 70 per cent of the country’s population, based in rural communities where there were no infrastructure and other necessary support.

“In agriculture, there is need for decentralisation of power because the local government is the warehouse where farmers are concentrated.

“Agriculture production should be moved from the centre down to the local government areas with adequate resources so that farmers can solve their problems locally without moving far away,” she said.

The project manager also called for construction of more silos near the farmers, adding that “they do not need too big silos located too far away from them”.

Olugbere said that the existing silos had become inadequate because most of them were constructed when Nigeria’s population was about 100 million.

The Commissioner for Agriculture in Ogun, Dr Adeola Odedina, however, ruled out the possibility of food crisis in the state.

Odedina said the state had taken concerted efforts at boosting food production through integrated approach to production, marketing, land provisions and input distribution, to support smallholder farmers.

He said that the state was in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria, agro-processing firms and other stakeholders in order to venture into various agricultural productions.

Odedina explained that the productions were on crops including cassava, rice, maize, cocoa, cashew, cotton and poultry products.

The commissioner explained that the state’s agricultural agenda was focused on food security, support to smallholder farmers, and job creation through agricultural value chain opportunities.

In Kwara State, Prof. Olusegun Balogun of the Department of Crop Protection, University of Ilorin, enjoined stakeholders
to encourage initiatives that would boost agricultural research works.

Balogun said such research particularly in the field of crop protection would serve as part of measures towards promoting food security in the country.

He observed that attaining food security had become a big challenge due to activities of pests which impacted negatively on crop growth against the backdrop of increasing human population.

“Since crop produce and products constitute the bulk of the food that
man consumes to lead a healthy and active life, the issues concerning
the discipline and practitioners of crop protection should be taken seriously by all stakeholders.

“This is more so because no protection translates to no good crop growth, no good yield, no good harvest, low food output, and inevitably
food insecurity with its attendant biological, socio-cultural,
economic and political implications,” Balogun said.

According to him, food security is a core component of human security, which aims at ensuring freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom to live in dignity.

Some farmers and food dealers in Ilorin also called on government at all levels to ensure safety of farmers in order to
prevent the predicted food crisis from occuring.

Those who spoke with NAN expressed worry over
insecurity in the country.

The farmers called on the Federal Government to open the long closed borders to allow food inflow and save Nigeria from the predicted food crisis.

A farmer, Mr Dada Abiona said farmers were afraid of going to farm because of their safety and threats from gunmen.

“Farmers are not safe. We cannot go to our farms again due to the
threats of these herdsmen.

“That is why food is becoming too expensive
and scarce. If the insecurity situation is not addressed, the food
crisis will consume Nigerians,” Abiona said.

Another farmer, Mr Jimoh Abdullahi said food crisis was unavoidable
with the way farmers were sitting at home.

“Nobody can reverse the food crisis. Farmers are not going to farm
anymore due to attacks by herdsmen,” Abdullahi said.

A third farmer, Mr Kolawole Idris said no amount of reserved grains in
silos could feed the population of Nigeria.

“Except we want to deceive ourselves, what is the capacity of the said
silos? Nigeria’s population cannot depend on any silos to survive. Let us stop deceiving ourselves,” Idris said.

A foodstuff dealer at Ipata Market, Mrs Iyabo Akanni also affirmed that the food crisis had already commenced and was no longer a future occurrence.

“Food crisis had already started. Everybody is feeling it now except
thieves and politicians. But innocent Nigerians are already feeling the effect of food crisis,” Akanni said.

Another food seller, Alhaja Memunat Ibrahim called on the government to open the borders and allow food to come in.

“Government should help us open the borders so that food will flow in since our own local farmers cannot go to farms again due to herdsmen problem.

“They should please allow food to come in to save Nigerians from food crisis,” Ibrahim said.

A commercial farmer, Mr Ige Abayomi said that crops storage and preservation as a precaution against imminent food scarcity was one good method in agriculture to sustain food security.

Abayomi said people should willingly be involved in farming having it in mind
that the consuming population was very high.

He expressed disappointment that rather than farming being generally embraced, it had become an occupation for the lower class, especially
after the discovery of crude oil.

“Governments give little attention to food production for home
consumption and these women and children are not adequately equipped
and compensated for their labour.

“Government should give more and total attention to women farmers in
Nigeria if we must survive hunger.

“Women, as well as men and the youth should receive training on the
planting season.

“Subsistence farmers lack access to farm inputs. They need tools that
can advance their efforts from subsistence to commercial production.

“Apart from some of these challenges, agriculture is a blessing to Nigeria and any nation in numerous ways.

“It is also a sensitive natural resource which if not treated with utmost priority could turn to loss for a nation.

“I think we should
return to the traditional method of food security at the family and communal level,” Abayomi said.

Mr Ojo Olayiwola, Chairman Kwara House of Assembly Committee on Agriculture called on the three tiers of government to invest heavily in agriculture.

Olayiwola said such investment would save the nation from imminent food crisis.

According to him, only massive investment in production of food
through the engagement of youths can save the nation from any impending food crisis.

Olayiwola urged the Federal and state governments to make loans and land
available so as to make bumper harvest possible.

He noted that the neglect of the agriculture sector by the three tiers of government especially government at the grassroots was
affecting the nation’s food production.

“There are no more functioning Agriculture Department in almost all the 774 local government areas in Nigeria to guide against incident of food crisis,” Olayiwola noted .

NAN

- Aug. 22, 2021 @ 14:44 GMT |

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