By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
As Nigeria joins rest of the world to commemorate 2020 World Food Day, WFD, the Chief Executive Officer of Izegbuwa Farms Limited, Chief Patrick Eholor, Friday, called on government and private sector to invest heavily in food production.
Eholor stated this in a telephone chat with Saturday Vanguard, where he said food production still has a lot to be done on it to meet the benchmark set by FAO and others along the value chains and reduce the alarming deficit.
The 2020 World Food Day is with theme, ‘Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together. Our actions are our future’.
He said: “Statistics from Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO, shows that Nigeria produces 60,000 metric tonnes of wheat per year, while the annual demand for wheat totals at 4.7 million metric tonnes, leaving a considerable deficit. This alone will show you how backward we are even though agriculture employs over 70 per cent of our population.
“It is not satisfactory because we are still importing virtually everything we eat including toothpicks. Until we diversify our economy as invest heavily in agriculture, we shall continue to have deficits in food production.
“There is nothing to point to because we’ve failed to invest. Our leaders are shortsighted except when it comes to looting.
“Until the federal government increase farming efficiency in order to make better use of arable land to produce more per hectare, which has not been done in the past, there won’t be food sufficiency.”
However, he commended effort of the government with various programmes, projects, policies and initiatives to boost food production and employment creation, but the common man cannot have access to them because he or she do not have connection among government officials.
“We have heard of Anchor Borrowers Programme, Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI), Youth Farm Lab and Presidential Economic Diversification Initiative (PEDI), and others.
“These initiatives are laudable but does the ordinary man in Benin, Auchi, Ogoja, Sokoto, Ife and Arochukwu who doesn’t know anyone in government have access to them?
“That is the problem we have always had in this country. These programmes are good but should be made available for all to access. The government may say it’s accessible but that’s not true. It was hijacked by politicians as usual”, he stated.
He who also is the founder of One Love Foundation further stated that, “Food production can be boosted if governments support all farmers not just me. Agriculture is a lucrative business and its capital intensive. Government should make massive production easy by subsidizing production.”
He also suggested and made it clear that it is important for farmers to have direct contact and connection with those making policies and distributing inputs including finance to boost their production, and not to be in the office and use cronies to reach out to them.
“Like I have always said, it’s difficult to trust our politicians even if there come up with a palliative. Every monetary aid should be paid to verifiable farmers and not politicians.
“Farmers are not in Asokoro or Maitama like they are making us to believe. Go the rural and farm settlements; there, you have the real farmers and invest heavily on them.
“Staying in Abuja to share money to farmers won’t bring any positive results as we’ve seen previously. Government should engage extension workers to rural areas to train farmers for effective production”, he added.