In June 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) gave an award to Nigeria, commending its achievement of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on reducing by 50 per cent the number of malnourished people, two years ahead of the 2015 target set by the United Nations.
Sadly, instead of sustaining that trend, Nigeria’s food security situation has continued to decline, with prices rising. This is despite the fact that demand for food never goes down, being one of the essential needs of man. The reason for this decline is not far-fetched, as Nigeria in recent times has been faced with both natural and man-made disasters ranging from pests, diseases and floods as well as the activities of insurgents in the North East and farmers/herdsmen clashes elsewhere.
This is further made worse by the environmental pollution as a result of oil spill in some parts of the South-South and South East. The above reasons do not exclude the depreciation of the naira, high cost of transportation and the nation’s inability to process most of its excess food produce locally.
As a way of boosting agriculture and addressing the high cost of food across Nigeria, the present administration renewed the call for Nigerians to return to the farm. However, the response to this call has been largely hampered by the perennial clashes between herdsmen and farmers. Addressing the question of high prices of food commodities, the minister of agriculture and rural development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had said that prices remained high because “the farmer is buying diesel to run his tractor; he also buys pumps, chemicals and seeds, all of which prices went up”. He, however, gave the assurance that the prices would come down.
Following the launch of the Green Alternative, which was the present administration’s roadmap to reviving the nation’s agriculture, the federal government made commitments to reviving the agricultural sector through the recapitalisation of the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) to promote agricultural loans at single digits interest rates to farmers as well as develop 3000 agro rangers to boost security in the farms among others
Sadly, one can garner that the political will to address the high cost of food commodities remains lacking, as previous and present administrations have failed to implement the Maputo Declaration which aims at allocating 10 per cent of annual budget to agriculture. The call for the development of agro rangers to address insecurity in farms across Nigeria has also remained an unfulfilled promise as farmers continue to worry about their safety in the face of criminal activities of miscreants who attack, rape, maim and kill farmers across the country.
Addressng, the high cost of agricultural commodities remains sine qua non to ensure that every Nigerian, irrespective of class, is able to feed. The fact that Nigeria is an agrarian economy, with over 50 per cent of the farmers practising small holder agriculture should give hope that the nation’s food crisis can be checked if insecurity is addressed.
In the prevailing circumstance, it may be germane to urge the government to consider the re-enactment of the Price Control Act which would, among other things, prescribe stiffer penalties and make better provisions for the implementation of the scheme. There is likely going to be argument against it by those already benefitting from the present situation.
While the call to enforce price control on farmers, transporters and other middlemen may not be feasible, it is imperative that government assures the safety of farmers and indeed herdsmen, as the need may be, through the implementation of agro rangers as well as ensure the resuscitation of agricultural extension officers to enhance poverty alleviation, boost job creation and food security.
In our opinion, the government should also ensure the actualisation of the recapitalisation of the BOA to improve farmers’ access to loans at single digit interest rates as that will go a long way to boosting food production and security.
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