LAGOS – Stakeholders in the agricultural sector have urged the government at all levels to find a lasting solution to the spate of insecurity happenings around the country so as to avert impending hunger.
They expressed worry over the spate at which prices of food items are astronomically on the increase lately, stating that if care is not taken, Nigerians should expect more.
Most of the experts in separate interviews with Daily Independent attributed the increase in prices of food stuffs to the insecurity situations in the country and the herdsmen invasions on farmlands.
Some are also of the opinion that the impact of the COVID-19 and lockdown is what is being felt today.
They said the government must ensure it puts an end to the various insecurity and insurgency going on in and around the country so as to reduce prices of food items.
Arch Kabir Ibrahim, National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), in his own view said that the prices will continue to rise as we deplete what is available and scarcity takes control.
He said the best thing to do is to support farmers to produce optimally to fill the gap and create a buffer stock soon after harvest.
“Insecurity also has to be sustainably stemmed so that those farmers that have been denied access to their farms by bandits is able to go back to production.
Biodun Onalaja, a rice farmer and processor said Nigerians should expect it because of the insecurities in the country and on farmlands.
He said insecurity is what is causing high prices of foodstuffs in the country.
“We cannot go to the farm to plant crops and the little we planted; the Fulani herdsmen did not allow us to harvest them due to their invasion of the farm lands.
He said until the Federal Government does the needful, Nigerians will continue to have food scarcity throughout the country.
“Cattle businesses are like other businesses and I don’t see why the Federal Government should give priority to cattle businesses in Nigeria and neglect all other agricultural farming,” he said.
Nurudeen Tiamiyu, National Vice President, Tilapia Aquaculture Developers Association Nigeria (TADAN) in his own view, noted that the only way forward is to strengthen agriculture where there are less insecurities for now and maximise yields of food produce.
He is of the opinion that the government should at all levels give farmers tax and levies holiday for the next 18 months and grants at zero percent interest rates for primary agriculture loans and two to three percent for secondary agriculture value chains.
“Insecurity and inflation are the causes of increase in food prices. They should also enforce the rules where food produce transporters have free access without police or local government collecting levies on the roads.
Edobong Akpabio, Chairman, Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Agriculture and Agro-Allied Group, said that food prices are skyrocketing all over the world today because there is more demand for food than what is available.
She said in Nigeria it is caused by pervasive insecurity, that there are all kinds of criminals impeding the production of food as a result of their activities which include kidnappers, violent and troublesome herdsmen, bandits, and terrorists, among others.
“They maim and kill farmers, steal their farm produce and destroy farms, kidnap farmers or their families for ransom and this has reduced production activities leading to less food.
“There were farmers who lost their lives to COVID-19 while many others could not farm during the lockdown. The consequences of those are the food shortages we experience today and high prices,” she said.
On the way forward, Akpabio stated that governments at all levels need to deploy a more strategic approach to the security of the country, that when there is security, there will be development.
“The states and the local governments need to promulgate agricultural policies and provide the enabling environment to encourage investment in their locations so that activities will increase for available and sufficient food.
“The cost of business is getting higher daily. This is definitely affecting the cost of food. When the cost of poultry feed is high, the cost of poultry products will also be high.
Akpabio, however, suggested that people should start planting simple crops and raising simple livestock in their home spaces as much as they can, that this would at least keep people away from hunger.
Sejiro Micheal-Tojinu, Vice President Lagos State Catfish Farmers Association (LASCAFAN), stated that it is obvious the nation has a looming food crisis ahead of her.
He said the COVID-19 impact badly affected a lot of farmers who could not recover and that some are just struggling to recover, adding that the exchange rate has caused a lot of increase on agricultural inputs, thereby increasing the cost of production.
“The insecurity in the North and other parts of the country has sent a lot of farmers away from their farms.
He said there should be more investment windows and opportunities for agriculture and that the government should fund research more.
According to him, “there should be creation of more ministries out of the ministry of Agriculture to stand alone, for instance there should be something like ministry of fisheries which should not be under ministry of agriculture, we can have ministry of crops, livestock among others.
“Farmers should be accorded special citizens’ status to encourage more farmers to come on board and there should be subsidies on agricultural inputs. There should be buy back policies in place by the government to minimise poor markets and post-harvest losses of products.
Henry Olatujoye, a major stakeholder in the oil palm industry noted that so many factors are responsible for the food shortage we have in Nigeria and largely due to abandonment of agricultural practices over the years.
He said total dependence on food importation, insecurity that prevent farmers from farming activities both on the farm and the roads and difficulties of farmers moving away from subsistence farming to mechanical farming are other factors responsible for the high prices of food items.
The way out, according to Olatujoye, is for farmers to take farming as a business and a sustainable venture.
He said the government should give more protection to farming practices including providing security, access to finance; infrastructures that will further encourage young Nigerians to take up farming as a business.
Dayo Gawati, Managing Director of Fdot Farms in Kwara state, a poultry farmer said one of the things that worsened production in the past year was insecurity, but he was quick to say that Nigerians should not use insecurity as cover that the fact remains that government at all levels have never been sincere with food production.
“It has been a political issue, but serious Nations take food production as serious business, we use political agriculturists to run agric matters and try to score political points instead of putting food on people’s table.
On the way forward he advised that government at all levels should put technocrats in agric development such as what the country experienced in 2013- 2015 when Dr Akinwunmi Adesina the present AFDB President was agric minister.
“Insecurity must be a thing of the past so that farmers can go confidently to the farm and plant and not be afraid of getting to the farm the next morning if their crops would have been eaten by cows.
John Bede-Anthonio in his view said if care is not taken the price of food has just started going up.
He said that it would be followed by serious food shortages orchestrated by Fulani herdsmen which would later result in famine in the land and would lead to the government calling on International agencies to help to send food reliefs.