The Poultry and Fishery sectors have lost over N60b to Coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
According to the Voices of Food Security (VFS), a coalition of farmers associations, over five million crates of eggs estimated at N40b have perished; N20b was lost by fish farmers, due to closure of hotels, eateries and restaurants; N20m lost at the Oke-Aro Piggery Farm, with the death of 450 pigs to the African Swine Disease, among others.
While briefing journalists in Ikeja, Lagos, on “COVID-19 And Threat To Food Security In Nigeria,” Sulaimon Arigbabu, who spoke on behalf of the body, raised concern that there is still silence from the Federal Government, on how smallholder farmers who have already suffered losses can be compensated.
He said: “We observe that these palliative and recovery windows may well work for the manufacturing and other sectors, but we are concerned that they do not adequately cover the needs of agricultural sector stakeholders, let alone meeting the needs of smallholder farmers who presently face the challenge of feeding the country during the lockdown and immediately afterwards.
Even before COVID-19, government had challenges reaching “real” farmers through its interventions, and this issue must be immediately addressed for farmers to access any benefits of government intervention. We therefore need a stop-gap measure on how to identify informal and formal farming groups throughout the country to ensure that no one is left behind.”
He emphasised the need for farmers, especially smallholders who are vulnerable group, to be taken care of at this period, adding that farmers, already hampered by challenges with access to market and the lowest levels of access to finance of any key sector in normal times, are finding it even more difficult to sell their harvests in a period marked by lockdowns in many of the states.
“This is affecting incomes of local farmers, and driving more people into poverty. As we battle food waste and address the need to re-stock the grain reserves, the government should play a part by working with relevant actors to set up community/Local Government Areas market aggregation system and buy-off farmers’ produce at a minimum price sufficient to cover farmers’ production costs, at least for the next 12 months.”
On her part, Madam Bolujoko Ayoola said farmers in the Southwest are short-changed, compared to their counterparts in other regions, in terms of support from the Federal Government.
“The real farmers are suffering, but corporate farmers are benefitting from the largesse distributed so far. The grassroots farmers in the Southwest are in cooperatives and it’s very easy for palliatives to get to everyone if government is sincere.”
President, Youth in Agric, Temitope Odetola lamented that due to the current dilemma, majority of farms are already closing down and more people are being laid-off, adding that it will be very difficult for graduates to get jobs in the next few months.