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COVID-19 is a health crisis. But it could also lead to a food security crisis if proper measures are not taken.
The world is already facing food and nutrition security challenges; this is as a result of many countries following the advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) regarding the introduction of physical distancing measures as one of the ways in which transmission of the disease can be reduced.
The application of these measures has resulted in the closure of many businesses, schools, and institutes of education, and restrictions on travel and social gatherings. For some people, working from home, teleworking, and on-line or internet discussions and meetings are now normal practices.
Food industry personnel, however, do not have the opportunity to work from home and are required to continue to work in their usual workplaces.
Keeping all workers in the food production and supply value chains healthy and safe is critical to surviving the current pandemic. Maintaining the movement of food along the food chain is an essential function to which all stakeholders along the food value chain need to contribute.
This is also required to maintain trust and consumer confidence in the safety and availability of food in a time like this. The food industry should have Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS).
However, if drastic measures are not taken concerning Agricultural value chain in Nigeria as soon as possible the COVID-19 pandemic will unleash a food security crisis not seen since the Great Recession in the country.
As the farming season is here, the lock down measure that states in the federation are applying to curtail the spread of coronal virus will affect this year’s farming season, already the food or Agro produce supply chain has been disrupted since the adoption of lock down policy. Farmers need farm inputs or to sale agro produce to prepare for the new farming season which is here. A nation without food security has no security at all.
As government is paying much attention to the health situation in Nigeria they should not forget that the greatest of COVID-19 is coming which is hunger-2020 if nothing is done.
Nigerian economic future in a time like this is uncertain as we over depend on oil and other nations of the world for virtual everything. Very soon accusing finger will be pointing at the crash in global price of crude, COVID-19 and the nation’s dependence on imported goods to the detriment of producing for export.
“I believe that Agriculture and ancillary Agro-businesses are the magic wands that can save Nigeria. Exploring opportunities in primary agriculture and agro-food sector for increased employment and export earnings is the way out.
“For sustainability and food security, experts believe that Nigerian and the government need to consider farming as serious business rather than an alternative to crude oil, if food security will be achieved.
“Hinging their arguments on the premise that there is correlation between food availability and security, stakeholders in the agro-food industry have stated that that the achievements of over five decades can be undermined by hunger and poverty if government does not address Nigeria’s food import bill in a time like this.
“This can be done by not just producing raw materials alone but by doing more value-creation business with our raw materials (Processing and Packaging). This as a result will lead to an improved Agro based technology whereby we fabricate our machineries for processing and packaging”.
The Ministry of Agriculture and rural development lead by Alhaji Muhammed Sabo Nanono should lay out a COVID-19 Emergency Food Security Preparedness Plan.
“This plan should clearly spell out details of a strategy to release more food into the system based on needs in particular State at specific points in time; a strategy to ensure prices of food do not spiral out of control and to avoid hoarding; and a strategy to ramp up food production in these times when some farmers are not going out to the fields to harvest or farm and traders are not transporting products because people are staying home, strategy to increase investments in local agriculture, commercial farming and greenhouse set-ups and operations for increased production, marketing and storage as well as a clear policy direction on major agricultural innovations such as genetic engineering and genome editing, which has the potential of helping produce crops that are high-yielding, early-maturing, drought-tolerant, disease- and pest-resistant…for the benefit of Nigerians. These will strengthen our food security in a time like this that the whole world is in a lockdown”.