Among the many challenges facing Nigeria today, food security is top. The country is in a time when food is, increasingly, becoming a luxury. Many families can no longer afford even two square meals a day.
Prices of all staple foods across major cities and even in rural communities in the country have surged by over 100 percent in the last 12 months and not showing any sign of slowing down. This caused food inflation to hit 22.72percent in April 2021 while core inflation is now 18.12 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Incidentally, food insecurity is one of the four critical problems Muhammadu Buhari said he would tackle head-on when he campaigned to be elected president. The other issues are the economy, insecurity, and corruption.
It is six years of Buhari’s Presidency and none of these issues have been addressed. Rather, each of them has moved from bad to worse, raising questions as to where the country is headed and whether Buhari was sincere with Nigerians when he made those promises.
Obviously, there are factors responsible for the soaring food prices, all of which are remotely connected to how badly the economy has been managed in the last six years of the Buhari administration. All macro-economic indices are trending negatively, especially inflation and exchange rate.
The high cost of farm inputs, insecurity, and climate change are responsible for rising food prices in Africa’s most populous country, making it increasingly hard for Nigerian households to buy even tomatoes, rice, beans, and other staple foods. It points to leadership failure and a disconnect with reality.
Input prices ranging from improved seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and poultry feeds are high as a result of dollar crisis in the last 15 months and shortfall in the supply of major crops used in their production. While exchange rate has become a nightmare, inflation is now a monster in the market.
Over and above all that is the worsening state of insecurity in the country which has continued to deter agric investments in key crop-growing states while putting existing agribusinesses in danger. Today, the country is contending with terrorism, banditry, and herdsmen attacks in the northern region as well as armed robbery and kidnapping in the south, all putting farmers and their investments in danger.
Farmers and herders are in constant conflict that have seen many farmers killed after losing their farms to rampaging herdsmen and their cattle that destroy farms. Regrettably, the government seems unconcerned while herders lord it over farmers, creating killing fields on their way.
What we see from all these is slowing farm activities and food scarcity that have brought hunger to many homes, save the homes of those in control of power and our common wealth.
As a result, growth in the agricultural sector has been slowing, dropping from 3.42 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 2.28 percent in the first quarter of 2021.
Mercy Crops 2015 report estimates that Nigeria loses about $2.3 million (N943 million) annually to the conflict between farmers and herders, and states where these conflicts take place lose an average of 47 percent of tax revenue generated internally.
We share the view expressed by Abiodun Olorundenro, Manager, AquaShoots Limited, who said that Nigeria cannot attain food security when there is insecurity. To do that, farmers should be able to carry out their farming activities without fear and should not have to pay bandits to harvest.
Insecurity situation has forced many farmers to abandon their farmlands and this is impacting our national output. Also, it has created a shortfall, leading to increase in food.
The presidency’s tacit support for open-grazing, which has now been banned in the southern part of the country, shows that Nigeria is not going to have food security any time soon. And the idea that Buhari is mum in all these circumstances says it all.
We are of the view that Nigeria has both capacity and potential to attain food security in the shortest time possible. But to do that, the government under Buhari who promised Nigerians food security must be decisive and determined to end insecurity in the land.
There are other concerns which the government should act fast to address. Inflation is number one here. This is a macro-economic issue that must agitate the mind of the president. High input cost, especially fertilizer, should be addressed with all the urgency it requires.
It is our firm belief that the country cannot attain food sufficiency, despite all the claims by government, when there isn’t much investment in agriculture. The government should invest in agric research to revitalize the research institutes which are today presumed dead due to lack of activity.
Farmers should be protected and encouraged to go back to farmer, but that cannot happen unless the herders with their AK47 are tamed by the government.