Laments devastation of flood on farms
Calls for massive investment in food production
By Gabriel Ewepu and Alice Ekpang – Abuja
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Nanono, on Wednesday, disclosed that National Food Reserve will hit 219, 900 metric tonnes by end of 2020.
Nanono made the disclosure at a press conference on the forthcoming World Food Day slated for October 16, 2020, with the theme, ‘Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together. Our actions are our future’ which Nigeria will also join the rest of the world to commemorate the day.
He said: “World Food Day is celebrated annually around the world on 16th October in more than 150 countries to raise global awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger. The theme of this year is ‘Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together. Our actions are our future’.
“You are aware that most of the themes adopted by World Food Day each year are areas that revolve around agriculture. This occasion, therefore, is an all-important event as it provides the platform to think about the gains of the agricultural sector to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
“The Ministry has raised her national food reserve stock to 109,657 a figure expected to be further increased to 219,900 MT by the end of 2020.”
According to the Minister as part of the Buhari-led administration’s quest to reduce food importation and create jobs along the value chains in the sector, “Agriculture for Food and Job Plan (AFJP), a component of President Buhari’s Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) was launched in July 2020. The project is targeted at mitigating the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on farmers.
“The goal of the plan is to lead to the creation of about five to ten million jobs in the agricultural sector, to cultivate more land in each state, provide zero-interest loans to farmers, amongst others. The first phase of the scheme has produced over 1.1 million beneficiaries across all states and the FCT.
“Out of the 5 million planned beneficiaries for AFJP, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have empowered 1,138,000 farmer-beneficiaries across the 36 states and the FCT under the first phase of implementation.
“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 her major staple crops. According to the data from the Ministry, maize and rice production rose from 12.8 and 12.3 to 13.94 and 14.28 million metric tonnes (MMT) respectively last year.
“The same is obtainable for cassava with production increase from 58.47 MMT in 2018 to 73.91 – and even projected to rise to 93.6 by 2023. Growth has also been recorded for groundnut, tomatoes, and sorghum production. Cattle beef, milk, and fish production also rose by 166%, 146%, and 11% respectively between 2018 and 2019. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the National Bureau of Statistics report indicate that Nigeria’s National Agricultural Import Bill also reduced from 1.2 to 1.1 billion Naira.”
He also added that “As a nation, we consider the relevance of eradicating poverty and hunger and transforming our food production systems to ensure sustainable food security. Significant progress has therefore been made to improve agricultural productivity since the inception of the present administration.
“To boost food security, Nigeria has curbed imports and has established a robust rice production programme to encourage more rice production at home. Efforts in this direction are starting to show results as Nigeria is now Africa’s largest producer of Rice. The country is also the largest producer of cassava in the world.
“A range of policies and initiatives to strengthen the rice and cassava value chains have been put in place. The economic potentials of both livestock and fisheries are also being harnessed and respective value chains selected and targeted for development.
“In an attempt to diversify the economy, the Federal Government has continued with its renewed focus on the agricultural sector. The government has deepened the culture with the Anchor Borrowers programme initiative and ban on the importation of some agro-commodities.”
The Minister also maintained that the Buhari-led administration is not resting on its oars in addressing challenges of the country’s agricultural sector.
According to him (Nanono) the Federal Government through the Agro Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project (APPEALS) has set aside N600 billion as loan support to farmers across the country. No fewer than 2.4 million farmers are expected to benefit from the loan which has zero interest.
“The gesture will support farmers in the country to improve their productivity aimed at boosting the country’s agricultural sector. The support was to complement the Federal Government policy on agriculture, which include promoting food security, improving farmer’s production, and also increasing exportation. The participating States include Kano, Kaduna, Cross Rivers, Enugu, Lagos, and Kogi”, he said.
However, the Minister pointed that massive investment is needed in food production, because agric is a business, which the private sector should take advantage of the incentives provided by the government in the sector to boost food production, and also to avert food shortage and crisis already predicted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, World Bank and African Development Bank, AfDB.
“It is clear from forgoing, that if the agricultural sector must be made more productive and sustainable, we must all be prepared to invest massively in it in order to quickly rise to the call against looming food crisis as already predicted by the World Bank, FAO and AfDB”, he stated.