BusinessDay

Address insecurity to boost food production in 2022, farmers urge FG

Concerned by the threat of a looming food crisis, farmers have called on the government to address issues of terrorism, banditry, and herdsmen attacks in Nigeria’s northern region as well as armed robbery and kidnapping in the south that have constantly put farmers and their investments in peril.

Since the security situation became intense a few years ago, several farmers have fled the tense states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, and thousands of agribusinesses have been destroyed after destructions on their factories.

As a result, growth in the agricultural sector has been inconsistent and constantly slowing since the third quarter of 2016 over worsening insecurity issues.

Third-quarter figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show that growth in the sector slowed to 1.2 percent in the third quarter of 2022. The sector has been growing at an average of 2 percent in the last eight years, below the 2.7 population growth rate.

“There is evidence that there will be a food crisis if we fail to address the insecurity issues in the country,” said Ibrahim Kabiru, national president of All Farmers Association of Nigeria.

“Food prices are already skyrocketing and it will further surge as production continue to decline,” Kabiru said.

“Farmers should be able to carry out their farming activities without any form of fear and harvest without having to pay bandits. These are crucial in preventing a food crisis,” he added.

Read also: Food security: Group wants 10% allocation to agric sector

In 2020, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) had listed Nigeria among 27 countries that are on the frontline of an impending COVID-19 food crisis.

The country has seen a decline in food production, especially in the production of some major grains, thus leading to a surge in prices.

“The country has experienced a shortfall in maize and other grains for three consecutive years. Climate change and insecurity have been the major factors leading to the decline,” Abiodun Olorundenro, Manager, AquaShoot said.

The shortfall has made it difficult for poultry farmers, he said, adding that the government must take security as its topmost priority in 2022 and put an end to the crisis across the country.

“We must address insecurity so that farmers and other businesses can carry out their activities without any form of fear.”

Prices of maize and soybeans – key inputs in poultry feeds reached an all-time high in 2022 owing to production shortfall as farmers scramble for the grains. The situation compounded the woes of poultry farmers in the country.

Also, the shortfall in food production leads to a surge in imports. Nigeria’s agricultural imports for q3 2021 increased to N789.1bn from N652.1billion in q2 2021, up 21percent on a quarter to quarter basis.

Similarly, analysts at FBNQuest, said the sector is still largely underperforming despite various interventions by the government owing to challenges such as insecurity limiting production.

“These investments and interventions are good news for the agricultural sector and the country. However, the benefits are being hampered by challenges such as the persistent insecurity in food-producing areas of the economy,” according to the analysts in their December note.

Farmers who spoke with BusinessDay also called on the government to ensure that farmers grow crops all year round and adopt mechanised agriculture to boost productivity and scale.

“Mechanisation is a very critical issue and it must be at the centre of the country’s food security plan,” said AfricanFarmer Mogaji, CEO of X-ray Consulting.

“If farmers continue to use crude equipment they will never grow enough for Nigerians and avert the looming food crisis,” Mogaji who is also the head of agribusiness – Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said.

He noted that with mechanised farming, farmers will easily translate from subsistent to commercial farming.

Also, the farmers say access to adequate financing in the sector will spur investments to raise productivity and sustain the growth of the non-oil sector.

Furthermore, they note that agro entrepreneurs seeking to build businesses that could boost food production would be able to shift from subsistence to commercial level as they scale their businesses.

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