COVID-19: FG devises means to ensure food security

April 28, 2020
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THE Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has made known measures put in place to prevent food crisis situation in Nigeria amid the lockdown ordered to check the spread of Coronavirus pandemic in the country.

According to the Technical Adviser to the Minister of Agriculture on Knowledge Management and Communication, Barrister Richard Mark Mbaram, the ministry had devised a short, medium and long term strategy to ensure food supply during and after the lockdown.

Mbaram, who made the disclosure while speaking to journalists in Lagos, explained that the strategies were made after profound consultations were done across the board among critical stakeholders.

He explained that the short term strategy included the immediate release of metric tonnes of grains from the National Grain Reserve following the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“70,000 metric tonnes of assorted grains and much of it protein nutritional grains have been released from the National Strategic Food Reserve and made available to state governments through the auspices of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to be circulated just to help those of our citizens who cannot go out as a result of the pandemic ”

The minister’s aide further explained that the medium term sought to ensure that farmers receive fertilisers and improve seeds across the country in preparation for the farming season.

“We want to see a situation where farmers receive inputs across the country. Yes, we know the farming season has commenced down South but up in the North where the predominant farming activities take place, we want to see a situation where farmers are able to get the right seeds and inputs needed to ensure that we do not have a food crisis on our hands following the health emergency.

“By our postulation, we expect that at least five million farmers will receive these inputs, and we expect that on the average, we should be able to have about ten million tons of food produced at the end of the farming season when we talk about harvest.”

For the long term plan, Mbaram said the ministry understood that Nigeria could not afford to be subjected to the volatility of the international food import market.

He explained that: “We are looking at imports very vigorously. The Minister has looked at it critically and the core of the policy is ‘mechanisation.’

“This is because we believe that if farmers are able to deploy tractors and other equipment that can take away the drudgery of agriculture and facilitate the operation in such a way that they can increase their production, then they will be able to ensure that the country is fed; industries are properly catered for, and also that they are able to make substantial returns on their investment as farmers.”

Mbaram, further pointed out that research institutes have a paramount role to play in the current framework of operation since their research results are key upscaling productivity.

“Research institutes are very critical in this plan, so we are also looking at improved seeds so that our farmers can actually do this business with a level of assurance that what they are putting into the ground will definitely yield the desired result for them,” he explained.

On agro-industrialisation, Mbaram said that plans were ongoing to boost private sector investment under the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones project of the African Development Bank.

“Mr President has given his full authorisation for the programme to commence, and we would have the programme commence later this year. You will see that our farmers will not have problems as it relates to offtake because the industries will be there to offtake.

“Also because of the nature of the intervention, we would have infrastructure coming into the rural space. We will see a situation where the bulk of the young people who ordinarily will prefer to be in the urban centres and be constituting nuisance will be crowded into the rural areas.”

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