THEWILL EDITORIAL: Tackling Growing Food Insecurity Amid Recession

corona face mask 2
Volunteers gesture as they direct an elderly woman at an ongoing distribution of food parcels, during a lockdown by the authories in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Lagos, April 9, 2020.

BEVERLY HILLS, September 24, (THEWILL) – The growing food insecurity in Nigeria is now a source of worry. Despite all the grandstanding and denials of what is already obvious, only a few households in the country, at the moment, do not skip a meal in a day.

The problem is even more glaring now that the COVID-19-induced lockdown and the sit-at-home regime are now over. The unimaginable and harsh reality of hunger is already here with many Nigerians and the only grace left is for the adoption of proactive measures to ensure that this does not eventually lead to starvation and probably deaths.

For the bourgeoisie and the wealthy, who might think that the alarm being raised on the imminent food scarcity is just a lousy noise, the notice that has already been served on the increase in the price of their loved staple – bread – by the Master Bakers Association of Nigeria must be a clear signal.

By the time the increase comes into effect and a loaf of bread is sold for almost a thousand Naira, then, the reality would have fully dawned on all.

We must however note that this is not the time for any blame-game as the current situation is the result of a combination of factors, which, of course, could not be solely blamed on a single authority.

It is rather unfortunate that, aside the disruptions caused by COVID-19, the general insecurity across the country has added to the effects of climate change, which manifested in late rains and drought in some areas. All these, coupled with general flooding when the rains eventually came, further compounded the woes of farmers in most food-producing areas of the country.

Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, who is also a member of the National Food Security Council, offered some explanation on the cause of the current food crisis, blaming it on what he described as the devastating effects of insecurity like kidnapping and banditry against farming activities in the entire North.

“In the north where we are mostly agrarian and concentrating on agriculture… From the last one or two years, a large portion of the north is largely confronted by insecurity. Go to the North East, North West and even within the North Central, there is kidnapping and all. So, you cannot expect to see bumper harvest,” the governor maintained.

The effect of all these is the prevailing scarcity and high cost of food right at the beginning of another recession, the second in four years, and at a time many people have lost their jobs while some of those still lucky to be holding on to one are being owed salaries.

Poultry farmers were the first to raise the alarm immediately after the lockdown was lifted as they complained of not only the loss they suffered during the lockdown but also the scarcity of maize to feed the remaining birds they are left with.

While many of the farmers were left with no option than to pack up, a lot others complained of their inability to meet with loan obligations to their banks due to bad business.

The Federal Government was however quick to rise to the occasion by borrowing some tons of maize from the regional Economic Community of West African States Grains Reserve to salvage the situation.

It also moved a step further to revoke the import license earlier granted four companies to bring in maize into the country, a development that is in line with the resolve not to grant forex allocation to importers of food items in order to encourage local production.

The government however gave charge to the National Food Security Council to quickly come up with recommendations to proffer solutions to the problems of food insecurity in the country. The Council, comprising of leading stakeholders in the sector, has since commenced work, with visits to states mostly affected by the rampaging flood such as Kebbi, Jigawa and Zamfara, where large acres of farmlands were washed away by flood.

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We are glad that with these proactive moves and actions, the Federal Government has acknowledged the reality on ground. We are however not comfortable with the attitude of some government officials who are just playing the ostrich all in the bid to deny the obvious.

THEWILL therefore aligns with the position of the National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Kabir Ibrahim, on the inadequate food supply in the country as we also lend a voice to the call for government to do everything possible to mitigate what has been described as the impending disaster.

We nonetheless condemn the view expressed by the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, that the country is self-sufficient in food production and quite agree with Ibrahim that “to say that there is no hunger in Nigeria today is not only arrogant and obtuse but delusionary, especially coming from some of the chief drivers of agriculture.”

We also agree with the position of the National Coordinator, Farmers’ Zero Hunger, Dr. Tunde Arosanyin, that the argument of the agriculture minister on food security in Nigeria did not conform to the economic principle of demand and supply as well as the Food and Agriculture Organisation standard for food security which is hinged on availability, accessibility and affordability.

“I don’t want to agree that we have enough food presently. It is on record that Federal Government borrowed 5,000 metric tons of grain from Economic Community of West African States. If we had had enough food, there wouldn’t have been need for such. Also, if we had had enough food, then our supply must have matched demand to give stability,’’ Arosanyin had stated.

We therefore call on every agency concerned to step up their game and increase the tempo of agricultural activities throughout the country in order to tackle the current challenge. We are also glad that President Muhammadu Buhari has just approved the reduction of price of fertilizer from N5, 500 to N5, 000 in order to enable more farmers access it for their farms.

We also call on all interventionist agencies such as the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending and others to come in fully to assist affected farmers to return to their farms so as to save the huge investments of the Federal Government into agriculture from going down the drain and rescue Nigeria from food insecurity.