James Emejo in Abuja
Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri has expressed regret that the country currently loses over $9 billion annually to post-harvest wastages as farmers lack to adequate processing and storage facilities.
He added that farmers lose over 50 per cent of their produce to post-harvest constraints, citing figures from the Food and Agriculture Organisation(FAO).
However, he said the federal government had begun the concessioning of 22 out of its 33 silo complexes in a development aimed at addressing problems associated with storage of produce.
He said:“Inadequate processing and storage facilities are issues of concern to us because of their impact on prices and affordability.”
The minister further decried the present administration’s level of commitment to the country to attain food self sufficiency by 2030 may be hampered by the lingering herdsmen/farmers crises in some northern parts of the country.
He, however, maintained that the federal government remained committed to zero food hunger by the year 2030 if the present tempo of agricultural activities were sustained.
Speaking at a symposium to mark the 2018 World Food Day in Abuja with the theme: “Our Actions are Our Future: A Zero Hunger World by 2030 is Possible,” the minister said: “The prolonged crisis, especially in the north eastern part and other parts of the country that have experienced incessant clashes of herdsmen and farmers is also an issue of concern.”
He expressed optimism that “In the next 12 years, Nigeria will join the League of Nations who would be able to feed the world.”
The minister pointed out that the projection could only be attainable if all Nigerians see and treat Agriculture as serious business and not as mere programme.
According to him, the country must take advantage of its rapidly growing population to invest seriously in agriculture while the private sector takes the lead in the project- with the government providing the enabling environment, “because Government has proven to be bad business manager.”
Lokpobiri also maintained that state governments must collectively demonstrate seriousness in agriculture by committing at least five percent of their budgets to agriculture, this way, the country would be able to upscale the agricultural production.
He commended the efforts of some states like Kebbi, Ebonyi, Zamfara, Ogun in agriculture and urged other states of the federation to emulate the same examples because collectively Nigeria will achieve the set target.
According to the minister, if Nigeria is able to feed itself, it would have been able to solve the issue of hunger and malnutrition in the black race and by extension Africa, which is, “a bold step in guaranteeing food for all in the world.”
The minister was worried that if the country does not achieve the zero hunger target, he foresaw a situation where, “people will be eating food and it will be snatched away from them forcefully by the hungry citizens.”
He said it is an established fact that the world has made unbelievable progress in the fight against hunger, which has led to the decline in the number of hungry people in the world, but regretted that this success is being threatened by the growing global population.
Country Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Nigeria, Suffyan Koroma said over the past 40 years, FAO had been working closely with government to advance sustainable agriculture and food systems with great optimism towards achieving zero hunger in the country.
He appreciated the continued government commitment in forging strong partnerships for nourishing, nurturing and growing a prosperous and peaceful Nigeria where all Nigerians thrive and contribute to socio-economic development.
According to him, achieving zero hunger is FAO’s shared commitment, which can be achieved through a Right based approach.