The Federal Government has been advised to support farmers with critical infrastructure to increase productivity in the food sector, rather than resort to the shutting of borders.
The Managing Director of African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), Dr Adebisi Araba, said this in an interview with The Guardian recently.
He added that the solution to food insecurity was to assist smallholder farmers to access information, finance and needed infrastructure to ensure farm produce go from production hubs to the market with ease.
He said: “A lot of people have heard about this. We keep talking about productivity and competitiveness. It’s not just about closing borders. For example, in the late-2019, Nigeria’s borders were closed and one of the reasons was the flooding of the domestic market with imported rice. Between then and the end of 2020, when I believe the restrictions begun easing, did Nigeria increase productivity in the rice sector? The yield for rice is still hovering between 2.0% to 3.5% on average because you get higher yields in the dry season so if you combine both, you get that sort of 2% to 3.5% yield for rice and that is not globally competitive because you need to understand that a rice farmer in Zamfara is not competing with a rice farmer in Benue, not in real terms.”
Araba also said the Federal Government should take a definitive and focused approach to tackle food insecurity and the rising cost of food prices in the country.
“The government really needs to be single-minded about increasing productivity. Sometimes statistics can be fuzzy, where we see stats on people saying that XYZ tonnes of rice have been produced. The critical statistics are on how much rice was produced on a particular land space? So, if we take the productivity, we can increase productivity and be globally competitive. Nigeria really should be feeding not just the West African market, but be a global food powerhouse.”
While highlighting the challenges farmers and entrepreneurs in the agro-food sector face, Araba said lack of access to the right information was one of the things affecting the sector and there was a need for entrepreneurs to speak up.
Other critical areas are high lending and interest rates, and the government policies that are not helping the sector.
“The first thing is, bring down inflation. If you look at the agri-food sector, the government has multiple tools at their disposal. We have the Agri-Business Investment Scheme and the Anchor Borrower Programme, and these two mechanisms are pumping in a lot of money into the agro-food sector, trying to hit below the inflation/interest rate but what that causes in the long term if you keep pumping that kind of money into the sector is you create an inflation rate because now, there is a lot of money in the economy,” he said.
On way the forward, Araba advised the government to provide the enabling environment and invest in the critical infrastructure that would boost productivity and enhance the sector.