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Senate moves to ensure food security, seeks establishment of Reserve Agency

… Reps ask Buhari to declare state of emergency on agriculture

The Senate on Tuesday commenced legislative work on a critical bill to ensure food security for Nigeria, saying establishment of Food Reserve Agency would prevent food inadequacy in the future.

The move for the establishment of Food Reserve Agency comes as the Senate feared that the adverse effect of the coronavirus pandemic would lead to food insufficiency in the country.

The Senate said if an agency is put in place, Nigeria would be taking the right step in the right direction as replicated in other African countries, such as Zambia and Tanzania. The agency would ensure adequate food production and storage.

The bill, sponsored by Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa West), was passed for second reading on Tuesday. Adamu is chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

Leading the debate, Adamu, while underscoring the importance for the diversification of the Nigerian economy, explained that there is the need for enabling laws to address the problem of food insecurity.

According to the lawmaker, the Food Reserve Agency, when established, would be responsible for storing food grains and other food commodities for strategic purposes.

“Agriculture plays a pivotal role in the development and growth of every nation. Any country seeking to diversify its economy, alleviate poverty, create jobs and ensure food security should prioritise agriculture,” Adamu said.

He said Nigeria, recognising the important role agriculture plays, has made efforts to place the sector at the fore by introducing different intervention programmes and policies backed by enabling laws.

“A further step to be taken to ensure food security in our country at all times is to formulate enabling laws that will address food insecurity,” Adamu said.

“The recent mandate of the president during the COVID-19 pandemic to distribute 70,000 metric tons of grains from the grains reserves shows clearly how important it is for a country to have a Food Reserve Agency,” he said.

He said with the existence of the agency, emergency food crisis would be taken care of, especially in the period of a pandemic.

“There will also be a reduction in post-harvest losses as silos, warehouses, equipment, ancillary facilities and other suitable storage facilities will be installed and maintained,” he said.

After reading the bill, Senate President Ahmad Lawan referred it to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for further legislative action and report back in four weeks.

In a related development, the House of Representatives on Tuesday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency in the agriculture sector to activate aggressive agricultural revolution and promote food security as a benchmark to revamping other sectors of the economy in the post COVID-19 pandemic era.

It also asked the executive arm of government to prioritise food production by promoting interests in aggressive farming through subsidised provision of fertilisers, agricultural implements and loans as well as other incentives to encourage all persons to venture into food production.

The Green Chamber encouraged all Nigerians, cutting across all walks of life – politicians, lawmakers, business men, civil and public servants, students and others – to get involved in the food-for-all campaign by starting up any form of agricultural activity to ensure that all hands are on deck.

The House again urged the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to sensitise the populace on the viability of practicing all-year- round or all-season-farming while taking advantage of the vast fertile Nigerian soil to reconnect the supply chain that was cut by the pandemic.

It further urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), commercial and agricultural banks to provide more incentives to farmers through very attractive loan facilities, and called on the executive arm to improve its support to the agricultural sector through supply of improved seedlings and hybrid species to stimulate bumper harvests.

The House also called on all other sectors to synergise efforts towards a harmonious food-for-all campaign that will engender food sufficiency and safeguard against upsurge in crime and hunger.

It further called on the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to urgently formulate a viable and structured food policy to ensure all-year-round food sufficiency for the country and mandated the Committee on Agricultural Production and Services and Banking, and Currency to ensure compliance.

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