COVID-19 will have a negative impact on food security – Experts

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Experts in the agricultural sector have said that the fast-spreading COVID-19 across the country will have a negative impact on food security in the nation.

The Special Adviser to the Oyo State Government on Agric Business, Debo Akande, disclosed this to PREMIUM TIMES in an interview on Monday.

He said the pandemic would have a negative impact on food security in Nigeria and globally, if not probably measured. He highlighted that many farmers are scared of going to the farm given the directive of the federal government for a lockdown in certain parts of the country.

“I think the impact is going to be based on everything that has to do with human beings globally. We will also be experiencing a setback, for example, we are approaching the planting season, but currently no plans are on the ground due to the fast spreading COVID-19 virus that has kept everyone away from their daily activities.”

Mr Akande recommended that the country should start conducting a study on mitigating the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s food security and nutrition.

“I think what we should be doing now is to start conducting a study on what will be the impact of the virus on food security. (We) have not seen any expert engage in the study.

“It has to go beyond the health impact. As you can see, we only focus on the health impact – and that is very important at this particular point in time, but, going beyond that, we should also look at the impact on the economy, social impact and human development.”

He said this would help to plan and strategise on how to mitigate the pandemic currently ravaging the world.

COVID-19 is a deadly respiratory disease which has affected over a million people globally and caused the death of over 80,000 people.

In a bid to address the spread of the disease in the nation, the president, Muhammadu Buhari, ordered a lockdown in Lagos and Ogun states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory.

Effect on farmers and farming

Also, speaking with PREMIUM TIMES in Abuja, the National Coordinator for Zero Hunger farmers, Tunde Arosanye, said that COVID-19 would definitely affect farming activities in the country, saying that anything that had an effect on the citizenry would definitely have a cumulative effect on farmers as well.

Mr Arosanye said the lockdown order of the federal government (FG) in some key areas of the economy, coupled with some states’ decision in line with the apex Government may negatively impact on food productivity as the planting of crops in the new season may become a challenge due to restriction on movement of the people.

Another major challenge he hammered on was the marketing of produce due to food stores and shopping malls that are shut. He said this would slow down cash flow in the hands of food vendors and farmers, and this might hinder farmers from returning back to farms in due time, for more production.

He advised farmers to take their health seriously, make use of their face mask, and be cautious while selling their produce and after mixing with customers they should ensure to wash their hands and even take their baths.

The Founder/CEO Imargir Consultants in Kaduna and the former CEO of Kaduna Produce Management Company, Chris Gaiya, also told PREMIUM TIMES that COVID-19 would surely have a negative impact not just on the economy but also on agriculture.

He said this means that attention should not be given to health alone, but also focus on food security as it is currently being threatened by the spread of the virus, although Nigeria’s food supply would not be so much affected in terms of the supply chain.

“How many people have money right now to get access to that food? There’s a scarcity of food in a lot of areas. The man that brings food from his farm doesn’t have access to go to the market because of restrictions,” he said.

He advised citizens living in urban areas to cultivate the habit of having vegetable gardens in their houses for unforeseen circumstances such as this COVID-19 pandemic.

“How many of us in the urban areas have a small garden by the side of our houses? If you have a property, make sure instead of just planting flowers, bla bla bla, grow vegetables, tomatoes, pepper that you can easily pick and prepare something. The only thing that you cannot plant is palm oil, meat.”

He further advised the government to put more emphasis on smallholder farmers, in the future instead of putting much emphasis on large scale farming.

Mr Gaiya also recommended that the government should allow farm produce in urban areas for people to have food.

“Restrictions should not be much on food produce so that people can have access to food and stay safe,” he said.

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