• Monday, December 04, 2023
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Benue, Kaduna killings compound Nigeria’s food crisis

Nigerians pay most for food since 1999

The recent killings by herdsmen in Benue and Kaduna – key crop-producing states – are worsening the plight of farmers who are already faced with a myriad of crises, threatening the country’s food production.

The herdsmen attacked Agatu, Apa, Kwande, Guma, and Otukpo Local Government Areas of Benue and Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna, killing and sacking farmers as well as destroying properties and farmlands.

Experts say the situation will worsen the country’s food crisis and derail its plan to broaden the economy through agriculture.

Aondongu Saaku, chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Benue State chapter, said several agrarian communities have been displaced in Benue, with farming activities under threat in a state that produces over 10 percent of the food consumed in the country.

“This is the time farmers are planting in the state, and many have stayed away from their farmlands because of the numerous killings,” Saaku said. “This will create a shortfall in food production in the state, and prices will surge further.”

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“We have over 2,000 farmers from Benue in IDPs now owing to the killings. The situation is pathetic, and the federal government is not doing anything about it,” he added.

The security situation in Africa’s most populous nation has been deteriorating in recent years and is more intense in key crop-producing states, thus adversely affecting food production and causing a surge in imports.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show that the country spent N1.9 trillion in 2022 importing food, while growth in the sector slowed to 1.88 percent, its lowest rate in the last decade.

“Lots of farmers have abandoned their farmlands for fear of being kidnapped,” said Ibrahim Kabiru, national president of AFAN. “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.”

Agriculture is the sector that can revive the country’s economy and generate revenue because of its enormous opportunities for job creation.

But to achieve this, farmers’ income must be improved and commercial farming must be encouraged. “The killing is also affecting the income of farmers. If there is no income, there will be poverty,” Saaku said.

The high rate of insecurity in the country has also continued to deter new agric investments in key crop-growing states while putting existing agribusinesses in constant peril.

Data from the NBS show that foreign direct investment in the agric sector hit $95.8 million (N44.2 billion) in 2022, down 73.8 percent from $366.07 million (N168.7 billion) in 2021.

Inflation is accelerating in Africa’s biggest economy, while humanitarian needs have intensified over worsening insecurity in the middle and northern states of the country.

High costs of inputs and the impact of climate change are hurting Nigeria’s agricultural production, and any loss of farmland or harvest will play an even bigger role in worsening food insecurity in the country, experts say.

“We are already in a food crisis and can’t afford to allow agricultural production to be hampered in any way,” Folorusho Olayemi, lead consultant and chief executive of Sammorf Agro-Consult Limited, said.

Recently, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said 25.3 million people in Nigeria would face acute food insecurity from June to August 2023 lean season – a period when stocks are depleted and food prices reach their peaks.

The FAO 2023 report said that the state of insecurity in northern Nigeria plays a major role in the projected rate of food insecurity in the country.

“Acute food insecurity is mostly driven by the deterioration of security conditions and conflicts in northern states have led to the displacement of about 3.17 million people and are constraining farmers’ access to their lands,” FAO said.

Nigeria’s March inflation rate quickened to a new 17-year high of 22.04 percent, while food inflation, which constitutes 50 percent of the inflation rate, accelerated to 24.46 percent in March from 24.35 percent in the previous month.