• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Tinubu’s agric intervention plan plays catch-up with food prices

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President Bola Tinubu recently ordered the release of 225,000 metric tonnes of fertilisers, seedlings and other critical inputs to farmers across the country in a move to stabilise the surging food prices across the country.

High input costs, worsening insecurity, over-reliance on imports, climate change and economic shocks have pushed food prices to record levels in recent years in the country.

The continuous rapid climb in food prices is accelerating the country’s headline inflation, pushing many into poverty and amplifying a cost of living crisis.

Experts who spoke to BusinessDay noted that the acceleration in food prices is a combination of both external and internal shocks.

According to them, the release of the inputs would only create some respite for farmers who have been battling with high production costs, insecurity, and climate change among others if it is transparent and well implemented.

Folorunsho Olayemi, lead consultant and chief executive officer of Sammorf Agro-Consult Limited, said the plan of the government to distribute fertilisers, seeds and other inputs at this time seems to be an inappropriate strategy, as the planting seasons are now past.

“If it were to be during the planting season that those seeds were released, they would have gone a long way in bringing relief for farmers,” Olayemi said.

“In the majority of the plans we make around agriculture, we just look at production alone. If this even succeeds and grains are harvested during the rainy season, where is the dryer to dry it? Are there enough dryers?” he asked.

Olayemi said that some of the necessary infrastructures are not available. According to him, once this is not addressed, farmers may have a good harvest, but may lose it eventually.

“If you plant corn, within 90 days it will get mature. When you harvest, you’ll need to bring the moisture content of the corn down; weather conditions are not favourable and it becomes a challenge.”

Insecurity, infrastructure, according to stakeholders are top on the list of things that need to be addressed regarding agriculture in the country, rather than the short-term, unsustainable interventions being meted out. Some experts have termed these interventions “political”.

Jude Obi, president of the Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria, has said that one of such sustainable solutions is putting appropriate research measures.

According to him, bringing down the cost of food is not the primary solution/target, but an increase in production. “Are you bringing down the cost of food so that after a farmer produces his food, he cannot even take himself to the hospital or take care of his family?”

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“Nigeria has been giving subsidies on fertiliser all through its life span yet it has amounted to nothing. This is principally because the government has failed to address issues of insecurity, low mechanisation, and poor storage facilities, among others,” Obi, who is also a lecturer at the Department of Soil Science at the University of Uyo, said.

Ibrahim Kabiru, national president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, said that since an emergency has been declared on the attainment of food security by the federal government, other issues will be addressed in earnest.

“The issues of insecurity, lack of mechanisation and access to credit as well as lack of ready access to other inputs such as fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides have to be taken care of,” he said.

According to him, the association will closely monitor the distribution of the fertilisers and other inputs to farmers. He called for merit in the appointment of persons that will drive the Tinubu government’s agricultural plan.

“The current strategy of flooding the market with subsidised food items or grains is a good one and may likely help to cushion the effect of the crushing inflation we are experiencing, provided that it will be sustained to the end of the year,” he added.