• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Increasing attacks choke Nigeria’s food basket as death toll hits 690

Increasing attacks choke Nigeria’s food basket as death toll hits 690

Increasing attacks in the country’s food basket – Benue—are worsening the plight of farmers, who are already faced with a myriad of crises, threatening the country’s food production.

Over 690 deaths and 130 casualties have been recorded in thirteen months in the state, recent data by SBM Intelligence.

The data showed that between January 2023 and February 2024, 19 local governments were deliberately attacked by bandits in Benue, killing and inflicting injuries on farmers in the state.

Among them, five local governments – Otupkpo, Apa, Ukum, Gwen West and Guma had higher death numbers than the rest. These local governments are major contributors to the country’s food production.

Benue State, widely known as the food basket of Nigeria, leads the country in scale and diversity in agricultural production, growing more soybeans, citrus fruits, mangoes, roots, and tubers than any other state.

The report noted that many farmers in the state now live in fear and have discontinued farming, straining an already strained industry.

Over the years, farmers in Africa’s largest nation have decried the rate of attack on their lives and farms, which has made many abandon their farms, a repercussion that is affecting Nigeria’s food crisis.

Nigeria’s agric sector has been growing at a slow pace in the past four years on the back of worsening insecurity and other menaces plaguing the industry.

For more than a decade, Nigeria’s internal security crises have intensified, slowing down economic growth, particularly the agriculture sector.

Muda Yusuf, chief executive officer The Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, said insecurity is a national issue. He noted that attacks on farmers are the reason why there is rising food inflation.

“It is not just a Benue issue,” he said. “It is a national issue that has become a big problem for the industry. It has led many farmers to abandon their farms, leading to rising food inflation.”

Yusuf added that as a result of this menace, lots of people cannot function properly because they cannot afford to eat balanced diets. He also noted that with the level of insecurity the agric sector faces, crime rates around the country will rise, as many farmers are going out of jobs.

“When people cannot afford to eat balanced diets because of high cost of food items, they cannot function well, making them prone to illness,” he said.

Otupkpo, Apa, Ukum, Gwen West and Guma, communities majorly affected by insecurity in Benue in the period under review, are leading producers of yam, cassava, rice, millet, groundnut, maize, soybean, sorghum and cocoyam, crops that top Nigeria’s agric export list yearly.

According to another report by SBM Intelligence, farmers in the North-West region paid N139.5 million to bandits as levies within a period of four years (2020-2023), indicating that the issue of insecurity among farmers in Africa’s largest nation cuts across the middle-belt.

“All these make things difficult for those who depend on agriculture for their livelihood and worsen food availability and affordability in the country,” the report said.

“Across the north in the past four years, militants have made a fortune through various levies imposed on agrarian communities running into millions, which have exacerbated food insecurity and made people poorer.”

Edobong Akpabio, a former head of agribusiness at Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a previous interview with BusinessDay, said the country has lost 60 percent of its food production in key producing states owing to rising insecurity.

“A lot of farmers do not cultivate in places where they usually grow crops because of the high rate of insecurity,” Akpabio said.