Across the country, the biggest problem confronting most Nigerians is hunger. Incidentally, the ability of a country to put food on the tables of its populace, determines that country’s poverty level. LEADERSHIP SUNDAY investigations revealed that the country is still very far from meeting the minimum food requirement for her 150 million population.
The findings also revealed that most of the intervention plans by states to boost agriculture are more on paper than on ground. In spite of the country’s vast arable lands found in all the geo-political regions, the agriculture sector largely remains neglected. The farmers, many of whom are barely educated, continue to depend on crude farming implements.
According to reports filed in by LEADERSHIP SUNDAY reporters, most of the intervention programmes such as the fertilizer distribution have not achieved the aim of boosting agriculture produce in the country.
In Benue State, the food basket of the nation, the story is not different, just as the administration of governor Gabriel Suswam has not clearly defined its stand on arresting the rising prices of food produce, by way of setting up foodstuff price regulatory agency to stabilise the cost of food items.
When contacted, the special adviser to the Governor on Agriculture and food security, Mr. Emmanuel Aster, admitted that there was general increase in the cost of food stuff in the country, but that the hike did not exist in the state. He said the government had set out different mechanisms to boost agriculture, through which according to him, food is made available in every nook and cranny of the state.
“The price of foodstuff is not very high in Benue State. A survey round the local markets in the state reveals that the prices are dropping daily. The Suswam administration is making food available to the populace. Assorted of fertilizers have been released to farmers, including procurement of tractors and establishment of food processing centres. These are efforts made by the state to boost food production”, the adviser stated.
Atser, who attributed the unabetting cost of food items to increase in wages and salaries of workers, said that market traders at all levels must complement government efforts of ensuring food security in the country, by concentrating on the country’s comparative advantage in agriculture.
On his part, State coordinator of National Programme for Agriculture and food Security (NPAFS), Mr. James Ker, disputed that there was depreciation in the prices of foodstuff, as according to him, there should be a balance between the sufferings of genuine farmers and the cost value in the prices of farm produce.
He said, “Around the country and particularly in Benue State, low prices of foodstuff have hampered the activities of farmers and their products, which they produce for the commercial market. There should be an alignment between the sufferings of genuine farmers, who practically produce food, and there should be added value in the prices of their products”.
Ker, who is also the programme manager of Benue Agricultural and Rural Development Agency (BNARDA), said “the jump in the prices of foodstuffs could be linked to the inaccessibility of some of the farm produce in the market. Value process is another cause of inflated costs of food items.
But if the farmers are able to process food in affordable measures, it would certainly add value to the prices of food produce.
The Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun in his inaugural speech said agriculture would be given utmost priority based on its vantage position in the provision of employment for the teeming number of youths.
The Ogun State commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Ayo Olubori told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that the government has started laying a solid foundation to build a rosy future for the people by visiting all the farm settlements in the state and ensuring ways by which these farm settlements will be made operational.
The commissioner said he believed that the only way to make food available to Nigerians was by going back to pre oil boom era where Chief Obafemi Awolowo was able to use agriculture to build many edifices in the South western part of Nigeria.
He said many of these farm settlements are located within Ogun State, though the immediate past administration had concessioned some of these settlements. The Ekiti State government, according to our correspondent promised to use agriculture to boost food security and generate employment for its teeming youths.
The commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Adio Folayan, said agriculture remains an important leg in the eight-point agenda of the Dr. Kayode Fayemi-led administration. Folayan told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, that the government had committed enormous resources to the sector in a bid to make Ekiti the “Food Basket of the Southwest”
He explained that government had committed enormous resources to the purchase of seedlings for farmers, provision of credit facilities, opening of rural roads, purchase of new tractors and payment of counterpart funds to boost farming. This, according to him, has revolutionised and repositioned agriculture in the state to boost better yield.
Despite the fact that better part of Lagos land mass is covered by water, the quest to provide food and create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths has continued to take pole position in the state government’s policies.
The agricultural policy initiative of the former governor of the state Asiwaju Bola Tinubu continued by the Babatunde Fashola administration has given birth to about 250,000 farming families in the state in the last eight years. The number keeps soaring, thus creating new opportunities and brightening the state economic prospects .
The state government’s effort under the present administration has been very visible in the establishment of various agricultural estates for Lagos residents interested in food and animal production.
The agricultural estates are classified into vegetable estate, poultry estate, fish farm estate and arable crop estate which had given major boost to food production in the state in particular and the country in general .
Confirming the state government’s resolve to bring about agricultural revolution in the state, the Lagos State commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that the state government is determined to revolutionise the agriculture sector to produce the food requirement of the state.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government in its Independence Day broadcast promised to revamp the agriculture sector as well as provide about 3.5million jobs through the sector. In his effort at diversifying the economy, President Goodluck Jonathan said his administration had set out agricultural transformation action plans and policy measures to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of rice, cassava, maize, sorghum and other staple foods.
He said the agricultural transformation plan would generate 3.5 million jobs and produce 20 million tonnes of food.
In achieving all these, the President appealed to Nigerians to take pride in farming and consume locally produced agricultural products.
“We should eat what we produce. The increasing popularity of local products, like ‘Ofada rice’, ‘Badegi rice’, and ‘Abakaliki rice’, attest to the fact that the populace will readily embrace locally-grown produce”, president Jonathan had explained.