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Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The federal government has advised Nigerians against panic buying and stockpiling of food items, assuring that contrary to fears, the country is not in danger of an impending famine.
It also disclosed that adequate measures were already being taken to avert a possible outbreak of famine in the country, even as it revealed that security measures were being adopted, including engaging the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), to check violent attacks on farmers in some parts of the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, gave the assurances in Abuja on Monday on a day the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, also stated that the federal government was determined to move the economy out of recession.
Speaking in a panel discussion and press conference at the 11th African Economic Conference (AEC) with the theme “Feed Africa: Towards Agro-Allied Industrialisation for Inclusive Growth, Ogbeh said: “We are not in danger on famine.”
The conference was jointly organised by the African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The minister advised Nigerians against panicky buying and stockpiling of food items, adding that the government was encouraging the growing of staples such as rice all-year-round to ensure the availability of food at all times.
Ogbeh noted that although some neighbouring African countries were coming to the country to buy grains, government was not going to adopt any policy of blocking such trade, but had decided to encourage more participation in mass production of agricultural produce.
He said government’s approach to averting famine was also to motivate Nigerians to feed themselves by going into farming as well as drastically cutting down wastages.
Ogbeh said the government had also acquired 33 silos to store grains across the country while about 110 milling facilities were being procured for farmers at about 40 per cent discount.
The minister said because of the foreign exchange challenges, the milling facilities were procured for the rice farmers and would be given to them through cooperatives with repayment period of five years.
On efforts to check attacks on farmers, he admitted that the problem was indeed a serious one, noting that the government was already collaborating with the NSCDC to check the menace.
The minister, who said since the issue bordered on security, he would not divulge the details of the measures being put in place to check incidents of attacks on farmers, added that although the measures may not cover the entire country for now, something was being done.
Lamenting the stark neglect the agricultural sector suffered in the past decades, Ogbeh blamed the elite for the development, regretting that a sector that showed enormous promise in the First Republic was relegated to the back door with import-dependence becoming the order of the day.
In his remarks, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who declared the conference open, said the sharp decline in commodity prices globally has had a negative impact on food production.
Osinbajo stated that in the case of Nigeria, the situation was made more dire because vandalisation of oil pipelines worsened the situation, resulting in the loss of about a million barrels of oil per
The VP stated that in spite of the daunting challenge, the federal government was determined to come out of the shock-induced recession and move towards economic growth.
But he added that even when such growth begins to manifest, government’s resolve was to ensure that it is inclusive.
According to Osinbajo, attaining an inclusive growth will depend on the expansion of the agriculture space, assuring that the government would continue with policies encourage increased food production.