By Gabriel Ewepu & Nnamdi Ojiego
As Nigerians continue to grapple with the devastating effects of ravaging floods that affected over 30 states of the federation, farmers have disagreed with the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammad Abubakar, over a comment that there won’t be food scarcity in 2023 in the country.
The minister had, last Monday, dismissed concerns that Nigeria would experience food shortage in the coming months.
He gave the assurance while responding to questions from lawmakers at the 2023 Budget defence session jointly organised by the Senate and the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture.
Some of the lawmakers, in their separate submissions, had decried the effects of flooding in the country on farm products. They said projections had been made that Africa may experience food shortage given the stoppage of grain importations occasioned by the Russian-Ukrainian war.
However, responding to the issues raised by the lawmakers, Abubakar said: “The main concern about food scarcity in the coming months, we will not allow that to happen. I can guarantee you by the grace of God because we have measures in place.
“One of the measures is dry season farming, which we have in place. And for the money, we are working with the Ministry of Finance.
“We have gotten money from financing agencies, one of them is African Development Bank, and we will intensify dry season farming.”
603 killed, 1.3 million displaced
In the aftermath of the floods, at least 603 people, according to official estimates, have been killed with 1.3 million persons displaced from their communities across Nigeria. Some of the states where deaths were recorded include Kogi, Kano, Anambra, Kebbi, Delta, Bayelsa, Kogi, Bauchi, Benue and Jigawa with about 31 states said to have experienced flooding in 2022.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, revealed that about 82,053 houses had been totally decimated; 2,504,095 million persons were affected, while 332, 327 hectares of land were completely damaged.
Other statistics indicated that the number of injuries is 2,407, while houses that were partially destroyed totals 121,318, and farmland partially decimated is 108,392.
The damages caused by the disaster also attracted international solidarity. In a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, King Charles III of England sympathised with Nigeria over the “devastating” incidents.
Buhari Intervenes, Inaugurates Committee
Faced with the impending consequences of the floods, Bahari had directed the Minister of Agriculture and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to ensure that Nigeria did not experience food shortages as a result of the devastating effects of the flood.
In view of this, the President inaugurated a Presidential Committee for the Development of a Comprehensive Plan of Action for the Prevention of Flood Disasters in Nigeria. The Committee is expected to present its report within 90 days to Mr President.
While inaugurating the Committee on behalf of the President, the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, who doubles as Chairman of the Committee, said: “It is no longer news that the recent 2022 floods in the country have thrown several communities into hardship, submerged homes in over 34 states, and destroyed properties estimated at billions of Naira.
The Term of Reference, ToR, includes: Assessing and reviewing existing plans and policies on the management of flood disasters in Nigeria; Identifying and working with critical Stakeholders in flood disaster management; Identifying and visiting selected strategic flood-affected and prone areas; Carrying out technical evaluation of information obtained from the assessment; Liaise and work with international organisations with expertise in flood management, where necessary; and Develop a comprehensive action plan for preventing Flood Disasters in Nigeria.
According to Adamu, the presidential directive will be carried out under a two-tier institutional arrangement: Steering Committee and a Technical Working Group. The steering committee is being coordinated by the Minister of Water Resources, while the Technical Working Group is coordinated by the Director General, National Water Resource Institute, Prof Emmanuel Adanu.
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard, some of the farmers said the situation occasioned by the floods portends serious scarcity of food in 2023, as huge farmlands across the country have been washed away and many farmers lost their lives.
Food Availability Unrealistic – Ijeh
The Chief Executive Officer of EA Daniels Farm, Sapele, Delta State, Daniel Ijeh, said the assurance by the Minister of Agriculture over food availability is not realistic based on the prevailing situation Nigerians find themselves in.
Ijeh said: “What the minister said that there would not be food scarcity in 2023 is not true because scarcity of food has started already in 2022.
“Inflation is not responsible for the high food prices and it is not the Naira losing its value. If the minister understands how demand and supply relate to price, he will know whether there is food scarcity or not. I want him to know that already there is food scarcity and inflation is not responsible for that.
“If he is saying how do we come out of it as a nation people can now proffer solutions to it, whereby the government can partner with the private sector.
“I am in Sapele and a tomato producer. The local government chairman cannot assure the people of tomatoes all year round. But as a tomato producer, I can assure them of all-year-round tomato production and availability and I can achieve it.
“I can tell you that the people who are talking about no food shortage in Nigeria are people who are supposed not to talk.
“Food shortage will get worse in 2023. First, let me start with the input suppliers including fertilizers. In Nigeria, we don’t have people who regulate business activities.
“So there are a lot of fake fertilizer products farmers will buy to apply on their crops. Of the fertilizers we have in the market, over 20 per cent are fake. Most of the farmers do not understand that fertilizers are fake and fail to test them but on my farm, we carry out a test of fertilizers before use.
“Secondly, the issue of food distribution. After harvesting the food, it has to move to various places, and also farmers can only produce more food when they know what is in for them, and thirdly, our marketing system in Nigeria is too bad to support the farmer. It stifles and kills production”, he explained.
Nigerians’ll cry over scarcity of food – POFAN
Contributing, the National President of the Potato Farmers Association of Nigeria, POFAN, and Vice President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Chief Daniel Okafor, said: “One thing people are not looking at in Nigeria is the grassroots farmers. The Agriculture Minister is not a farmer, with the devastating floods alone, he should know that there will be scarcity of food in 2023, and it has started.
“In 2023, Nigerians will cry over serious food scarcity. We are farmers and have suffered huge losses and we know what we are saying. All the farms have been submerged by flood.
“Does he (Abubakar) have the data of destroyed farms, has he consulted any farmer? I am in Anambra, a 50kg bag of rice is N48,000 we were buying N35,000. The assurance of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and others having grains in silos is not practicable.
“If Nigeria wants to get it right and do what is expected, more waterways should be opened, and the River Niger should be dredged”.
Rice milling activities remain bleak – RIMAN President
On his part, the National President of the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria, RIMAN, Peter Dama, lamented that the hope of rice millers looked bleak, even as he said his rice mill in Plateau State was currently submerged by flood.
According to him, millers have lost huge bags of paddy, expensive equipment, some workers killed by the flood and many have also been displaced.
“The flood has devastated a lot of rice farms across the country. Members of RIMAN have been affected too. Some parts of my mill are flooded.
“The worst about it is in Kogi State where a number of the rice mills are submerged in the flood and the people have lost heavily; equipment, money and human capital.
“It is something that is devastating and has devastated a number of people. We had incidences in Kogi, Jigawa and other states where the flood had washed people off including machines some are submerged because they are well fitted to the floor, also rice paddy stored for milling was all swept off.
“We are in the season of harvest and it is expected that prices will crash but as of yesterday, prices of paddy threaten to go up because farms have been washed off.
“For example, the big rice mill in Lagos, where are they going to get the paddy from, where are the Dangote going to get the paddy? Olam Rice Farm lost $15 million to the flood on their farm and where are they going to get the paddy to compensate for the loss?
“Our fear is the government should not open borders because they said they will import paddy or rice because that in itself will kill the initiative and successes recorded in food security in rice.”
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.