• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

Food volatility and the need to embrace multi-dimensional solutions

Food volatility and the need to embrace multi-dimensional solutions

The continuing hike in the prices of foods and other commodities has prompted the need for Nigeria to embrace multi-dimensional solutions to address food prices and enhance food security.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS has revealed that the cost of a healthy diet (CoHD) for March 2024 was 5.4 per cent higher than the amount recorded in February 2024.

A major factor for the hike was blamed on the unprecedented announcement of the federal government’s removal of oil subsidy, which immediately led to an inflation of 30.63 per cent in September and a Consumer Price index surge of 26.72 per cent as recorded by the NBS.

While many were optimistic that the situation would revert or become more stable, the sad reality, is prices have climbed steadily with no relief in sight for the common man.

However, the obvious reality as can be attested in every market is that despite the outcry, there is no scarcity as much as the high cost which makes produce less affordable for many Nigerians.

Read also: Farms under fire: Nigeria food security on the brink

While several factors account for the high cost and seeming scarcity, economic postulators continue to blame the rising cost on the removal of oil subsidy which immediately escalated the cost of transportation and caused a chain reaction which culminated in the increasing prices of food commodities.

As a means to mitigating some of these issues the federal government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security have employed several initiatives including the provision of strong agricultural policies, provision of agricultural inputs support to farmers, provision of extension services, the constitution of the agro rangers in partnership with the NSCDC and the cultivation of over 118,000 hectares of wheat in 15 states, and introduction all-year round farming amongst others

Abubakar Kyari, the minister of Agriculture and Food Security, in his presentation to mark Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s one year in office, informed that the result of that investment was in wheat crop production an infusion of 309 billion naira into the economy, by way of harvests in

“The harvest that we have realized would have an estimated value of about 309billion nairas injected into the economy in response to the Presidential Directive”

“I am happy to announce that at the end of the season, Jigawa had produced 55,000 thereby exceeding the allocated 40,000 by 15,000 hectares. We also supported 107,429 wheat farmers with inputs resulting in an output of 474,628 metric tons of wheat that was given, a 50% subsidy of all inputs, fertilizer, agrochemicals such as herbicides and insecticides and also seeds, wheat seeds, free of charge.

Reacting to the high cost of food commodities, Kabiru Ibrahim, President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN has informed that farmers are equally shocked at the continuing high cost of food commodities.

In his words “The farmers are as surprised as everyone that food inflation is still higher than the general inflationary trend in the country because they mostly sell at the farm gate at reasonable prices.”

He alleged that the middlemen who buy from them and sell to the public are responsible for the hike in prices.” They generally attribute the price hike to handling and transportation and of course their margins of profit” he said

Arch. Kabiru was optimistic that as the Naira continues to firm up, prices will appreciably come down to the relief of the majority of Nigerians.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Usman, the President/CEO of the Nigerian-Saudi Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture informed that Nigeria has more than enough, even to feed the whole of Africa, it is just that we are not utilizing it to the optimum.

‘’Once we can have plans properly executed, particularly in agriculture I can tell you we have more than enough to feed Africa, not to talk of Nigeria. So, I think we can simultaneously work on developing the agricultural sector to export and keep some”

” Take the case of our cows, we are told they produce 10 litres per week, but when they are given the right feed and medical treatment, they can produce 50 litres, which means they can produce five times more, this could be the same thing when it comes to even output from our land. I know that the insecurity is there and we cannot go to the farms even though there are political reasons for the insecurity” he said.

Read also: Nigeria long journey to food security not yet Uhuru

“But I tell you clearly, we have the potential to not only feed Nigeria but feed many other countries of the world” he added.

Meanwhile, Ibian Orji, an economist and farmer is of the view that until Nigeria as a nation becomes intentional about agriculture, Nigeria will continue to suffer high costs and lack availability, even when Nigeria has more than enough to feed the whole world.

“Agriculture is not supposed to be a way of life but a business with expected return on investment. But there is no enabling environment to enable the banks to fund us or the available infrastructure to support agricultural development” and truth is nobody wants to invest in a place he/she is not sure of

He noted that while the federal government and even some states had declared a state of emergency on agriculture and dry season farming, the policies were dead on arrival if the intentionality to drive the process was lacking.

Orji said “We know that 50% of uncultivated lands are in Africa, with more than a quarter of them in Nigeria alone, and we have all it takes to produce food for Africa and indeed the world but everybody is afraid because of banditry, insecurity, among so many others

“We need to fund our independent researchers until we can find food on every table. My intention, is to see Africa become the food producer for the world using the natural advantages we have such as sunlight” he said

BusinessDay in its summations and through various indicators surmised that engaging multi-dimensional approaches to the rising cost of food commodities can help mitigate the current food price crises Nigeria is facing.

It recommends that governments at all levels subsidize fertilizers/ inputs to help farmers recoup their investments.

It further advocates that the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL Plc.) and other Agri- loan facilities by the federal government, including the Nigerian Export, Import Bank (NEXIM) and other commercial banks must be seen to be supporting farmers, particularly at single digits interests.

That aside policy creation, the government, particularly at the federal level must engage in full implementation of its policies.

States and local governments pick up the gauntlet to ensure that citizens get the needed support in developing agriculture at the state and local government levels.