Most Nigerians are frightened by the prospect of empty food reserves. This situation explains the galloping food prices as farmers and traders, uncertain about how to replenish their stock, create a scenario of scarcity. Elsewhere around the world, countries with similar problems are exploring new ways to develop national food systems or food reserves which can adequately guarantee food security for their citizens.
Analyzing the prevailing circumstance, experts are predicting that Nigeria is likely to experience famine and acute food shortage by next year, 2022, as a result of the insecurity in the country which has made it difficult for farmers to access their farms, let alone plant or harvest. As scary as this prediction may seem, the reality may already be here.
According to a 2021 Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC 2021), Nigeria is among six countries in Africa with worsening food crisis that is placing 13 million Nigerians at risk of falling into acute food insecurity. The GRFC is prepared by 16 leading global and regional organizations belonging to the Global Network against Food Crises. The report is released annually by the Food Security Information Network (FSIN), led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
Nigeria, the report noted, is expected to see a serious deterioration in food supply. The prevailing security challenges in several parts of the country have made it expedient and imperative for the establishment of a food reserve by the federal government to avert crisis likely to arise from food shortages.
There are 33 silos across the country with a total capacity of 1.3million metric tons of grains. But unfortunately, they are either empty today or have been put into other uses. The government, at all levels, must rise up to its primary responsibility of ensuring the welfare and security of the citizens, food security inclusive.
The Senate in April this year passed a bill seeking to establish the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) following the consideration of the report of its Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. The National Food Reserve Agency, when established would, among others things, facilitate and provide guidelines for the establishment and maintenance of buffer stock in order to ensure price stabilization and food security, and correct problems relating to the supply of designated commodities.
The bill recognises the need to fill the apparent gap in Agricultural Development and coordination of programmes and projects in the country with the collaboration of national and international agencies. A well-managed strategic grain reserve will, hopefully, stabilise staple food prices for the benefit of consumers and farmers. Therefore, establishing an agency for this purpose is very essential to enhance food and nutrition accessibility.
The federal government also, in October last year, said that the national food reserve would hit 219,000 metric tons by the end of the year. Nine months after, what the nation is witnessing are empty food reserves and pending hunger.
To boost food security, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in collaboration with the federal government, has curbed imports and established a robust rice production through the Anchor Borrowers Programme. Although, it is commendable that Nigeria now ranks as Africa’s largest producer of rice, it is still not enough as majority of the nation’s population are poor and hungry as a result of the high cost of commodities including those that are locally produced.
Nigeria also ranks as the largest producer of cassava in the world. But the reality on ground is evident in the price of garri in the market today. A ‘mudu’ measure of garri, a local staple, (8 cups) which sold for N400 last year, now sells for N800.
It is the opinion of this newspaper, therefore, that the government at all levels, necessarily have to initiate policies to strengthen the rice and cassava value chain, if they are not already in place, which will have direct impact on a good number of the people. Furthermore, the economic potentials of both livestock and fisheries should also be harnessed and respective value chains selected and targeted for food security.
It is trite to point out that the primary purpose of governance is to ensure the welfare and security of the citizens. Food, in our view, is top on that welfare list. What is indisputable, in our considered opinion, is that the nation cannot, in all seriousness, be talking about security and welfare of the citizens in an environment where food is almost becoming inaccessible to many. To change this story, the government at all levels, owe it as a duty to the citizens to tackle the issue of insecurity and provide adequate protection for farmers.
Herdsmen and the Security Challenge(Opens in a new browser tab)