July 18, 2020

Coronavirus presents impending food crisis in 2021, Agribusiness expert warns

food prices

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By Adeola Badru – Ibadan

An agribusiness expert and founder of Farmkonnect, a foremost multi-dimensional agric firm in Nigeria, Mr. Oluwole Azeez, has warned that the global Coronavirus pandemic may trigger a “looming food crisis,” if urgent and drastic measures are not taken.

He added that the country might be hit by food scarcity that will be difficult to manage.

The agribusiness expert made this known in an interview with Sunday Vanguard, on the impending food crisis looming in the country as a result of lull in farming activities caused by the pandemic.

Azeez, whose career in agriculture, spanned 20 years, noted that lots of farmers are locked up in the house because of the Coronavirus, except the ones who are in villages that could move around.

READ ALSO: Agribusiness expert, Ejewere calls on regulatory agencies to address standard challenges

His words: “What we don’t know is this, the food we are eating in 2020 is the food we harvested in 2019. 2021 hunger is looming. The only grace I’m  seeing is that the rain is not at its  peak.  We may be fortunate to have the rain extended to early next year.  So, maybe we can still key into that. That is even if rain will be plenty.”

“The climate change now is almost permutation. So, COVID-19 is going to have serious impacts on food security.  Except we come in and attack it and reduce the impact. It is just a mitigation.  That, there won’t be

food scarcity next year I doubt it , except the miracle that happened in the Bible happens. Food scarcity is imminent because people are not farming. They are at home.”

“A lot of farmers have jettisoned farming. Some people farmed, harvested but lost all their harvests. Where do they get to start again? Except government intervenes for those kind of people.  Some people have eaten their capital which they are supposed to buy seeds to farm.  You cannot be hungry and be attending to any other case. So,  they have eaten the capital and those guys may either scale down on production or out of business.”

“These are the issues with small holders farmers. Even some big agribusiness  companies said they have distress because of this COVID-19.  I didn’t plan there will be COVID-19, but because I was scaling up, I stopped production in February to give space for renovations and other things. So, we have challenges moving our consignment from the port I need to go and buy my trailers.”

“Now,  imagine what happens to a person who doesn’t have money to buy trailers. The government said there should be no demurrage, there should be no this and that, it wasn’t true. That’s  just political. I paid demurrage, the detention fees, VAT and everything. It is only duty on agriculture I did not pay.”

READ ALSO: Agribusiness expert, Ejewere calls on regulatory agencies to address standard challenges

He, however, advised the government in the need to reduce VAT on agricultural equipment import, provide some technical and financial support to farmers, noting that: “Not the audio support but physical one. Hunger is looming. Farmers, small holders need to get back on

their feet. Not everybody  will be big enough to call the commissioner or director and request for passes.”

“I have never collected any grant or any government loan. But Osun  State has been of tremendous support. During the COVID-19, we have few passes to move around  the whole of Southwest.  That gave us the edge.”

“I have approached Oyo State government on one or two occasions. Even we did a dinner in December. We wrote them but the Ministry of Agriculture did not respond.  It’s until after the COVID-19 came  and we did palliative that the state started to give us little attention. The day we had a meeting to talk to me,  Really,   I wanted to bring up an idea. I’m never under pressure because I don’t need anything  from them,” he maintained.