From the moment man came into existence, he was kept in the garden of splendour and abundance by his creator. The land which is a factor of production with its abundant resources was to be used by man for his pleasure. This is so, because the creator directed at the inception of the world that man should cultivate the land, have dominion over it, and take command of all earthly and aquatic creatures.
By implication, neither man nor land/sea was designed to be idle or unoccupied. There is bound to be food crisis when man is idle, and land/sea is uncultivated. And if man does not occupy the land/sea with appropriate technology, he may have less food to eat.
Clearly, any nation that cannot feed its citizens is vulnerable to external manipulations and pressures. That is why for centuries, agriculture has been acknowledged as the foundation of civilization and stable economy in most nations. Agriculture is not only the production of crop as popular belief holds, it is about the production of food and fiber from the world’s land and waters.
Globally, statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, show two facts which should not be true: Firstly, there is sufficient food produced in the world every year to feed every human being in the world; and secondly, nearly 815 million people literally go hungry every day with more than a third of the earth’s population- 2.5 billion men and women malnourished one way or another.
In the case of Nigeria and its numerous resources, it is unbelievable that there is low food production when actually the population is rising. Certainly, this uninspiring report creates fears of food insecurity in the country. When it was published recently that the “Federal Government (FG) targets US$ 8.0 billion forex earning annually from yam exports”, I thought Nigeria is self-sufficient in food production., and thus, I jumped for joy. The justification for this policy was that if Ghana could export yam, why can’t Nigeria do same. Although, Nigerian farmers have begun registration for yam exports according to reports, Iam aware that yam pounding machines are made in Japan.
The flow of my earlier thoughts on food sufficiency was arrested when the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently released its Q2 2017 report which reflects that food inflation rose to 20.28percent as against 19.91 percent due to increase in prices of bread, meat, fish, oil, potatoes, yam and other tubers and vegetables. One may then ask: why is the price of these basic food items rising? Some experts believe it is either due to high demand for food or that the nation is not producing enough. I don’t believe that the demand for food is high because there aren’t much funds in circulation despite the reduction in inflation to 16.01 percent in August 2017. Like one analyst puts it, that there is no way a recession can end without increase in consumer demand. I agree. And that is why methinks that food inflation is rising not because there is increase in demand by consumers but due to Nigeria’s inability to produce enough.
It is a sensible pursuit when a nation develops its agricultural sector such that it will in the end contribute significantly to real wealth and joy for the people. This has compelled most nations to make effort to discover and develop their agricultural sector as a first step towards a civilized life. The citizens of a nation cannot be healthy, happy and peaceful if there is insufficient supply of food. It is for this reason that our nation’s food industry needs to be defended at all cost. It is to allay fears that there is likelihood of food insecurity in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria.
For several years, any food item produced in Nigeria is not sufficient to meet the demands of the people. That was why when the FG says in November 2015 that it will not spend the sum of N1.0 trillion to import agricultural products to meet local demands, it sounds good. But I requested in this column to know what the FG will do to provide food security for about 180 million people in order to cover the gap to be created by the ban on imported agricultural products?
In a serialized article titled Innovation: Complex but Inevitable, which was presented in this column in 2015, I wanted to know if the FG planned to embark on agricultural research in order to add value to existing locally produced crops so that they could be consumed and also exported? The question was raised because agricultural research in many African economies including Nigeria has limited capacity for meeting priority needs such as boosting productivity of food crops, adding value to agricultural products through postharvest processing and ensuring sustainable use of land resources for farming. That is why the overall level of knowledge employed in the agricultural sector remains low in many African countries including Nigeria.Another reason is that agriculture is not living up to its potential as an engine of economic growth.
A lot is currently being done by the Minister of Agriculture but there is room for improvement. Activities in the agricultural sector must be backed up by an agrarian revolution to increase food production. Throughout history, agrarian revolution is usually the indication of industrial revolution. It is the responsibility of the FG to ensure that industrial and technological bases of the country are strengthened to support food production. Efforts must be made to ensure that our farmers farm all-year-round, with the farmers being provided seed varieties to increase yield/hectare to produce enough food for our population. The FGmust continuously intervene by paying more attention to improving storage and value chain in the food industry.If the nation doesn’t improve road networks, build more dams and ensure they are working to support irrigation farming, encourage mechanized farming, Nigeria may continue to export yam while importing same from abroad.