…As stakeholders seek collective action to upscale production of indigenous food crops, tackle post-harvest losses
By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
The Federal Government, on Tuesday, announced that it has developed a mechanism that would attract N8bn revenue to Nigeria by concessioning 17 silos with combined capacity of over 6,000 metric tonnes for 10 years.
It disclosed this during the 2nd West and Central Africa Post-Harvest Congress and Exhibition in Abuja with the theme: ‘Upscaling and Promotion of African Indigenous Foods’.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammad Abubakar, who noted that farmers in the country lose about 30 percent of their agricultural produce in post-harvest losses, explained that the government’s efforts to address the situation would gain traction by aligning with the private sector.
He identified the problems of poor storage facilities, inadequate transportation infrastructure, lack of processing equipment, amongst other things as factors responsible for the huge loss of post-harvest food crops in the country.
Abubakar, who was represented by the Director of Food and Strategic Reserves in the Ministry, Dr. Haruna Suleiman, said: “One of the major problems in this country that farmers are facing is post-harvest losses, and we have various factors that cause these post harvest losses such as lack of the equipment that can add value to whatever is being produced in the farms, transportation is also a problem as well as poor storage facilities.Our post harvest losses in this country is well over 30 percent.
“In addressing these problems, the Federal Government has been able to lease out 17 silos with 6000 metric tonnes storage space to the private sector. This is to enable farmers to have access to storage facilities. The concessioning of the silos is for a period of 10 years and this will attract well-over N18bn to the nation.
“We have also been able to establish green aggregation centres to allow farmers to have access to facilities where they can clean-dry their agricultural produce during harvests; and in doing so, reduce post-harvest losses and also add value to whatever is being produced through these centers.
“The responsibility of the government is to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to drive the economy.”
Speaking also, the Vice Chancellor, Benue State University Makurdi, Prof. Joe Iorapuu, said the event in the nation’s capital would trigger the critical first steps towards collective action that would ensure that the post-harvest losses of food crops in West and Central Africa were addressed.
This, he said, should also essentially deliver on effective mechanisms for upscaling and promoting African indigenous foods.
“What we’re trying to do is to collectively show solidarity and act towards ensuring not just indigenous food production, but also that post harvest losses are curtailed to the best of our capability, that is the essence of this (conference). This is going to be processed through research and practical strategies that will help even both local farmers and big time farmers,” Iorapuu said.
In his remarks, the Director, Centre for Food Technology and Research (BSU), Dr Barnabas Ikyo,urged Nigerians who are dependent on imported food products to go back and look inwards.
“We think that while most of our people who produce these indigenous foods are producing, and not getting the market for it, if we refocus our attention on our indigenous foods, we will have a market for them and empower their local economy to be viable.
“They’ll also be able to produce more food crops. We’ll stop more imports and reduce the export-import deficit. We’ll also have our children feed on better and fresh food from our farms.”