By Raheem Akingbolu
Some agriculture experts have advocated a review of the national food security structure to forestall a likely food security crisis that may hit Nigeria as a result of the effect of the pandemic.
This was the summation of the perspectives of panelists on agricultural security at a recent National Conversation on Mapping Nigeria’s response to Covid-19.
The session with the theme ‘Safeguarding the Nation: Agricultural credit and national food security in an economic downturn,’ drew participants from both the private and public sectors.
In her opening remarks, the Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications Africa at Upfield Foods, Motola Oyebanjo, said conversations around improved food security and systems must be prioritised particularly now that Covid-19 has impacted socio-economic activities on a global scale.
“It is important for the public sector because it requires a healthy and active populace to ensure that the economy runs smoothly.
“It is also important for businesses as the society must be thriving to ensure that products and services are profitable. There are great potential and possibilities for the food and agricultural sector in Nigeria during and post- COVID-19 pandemic.
“We must imagine a new reality, proffer innovative solutions and take decisive action to ensure we harness them.” Oyebanjo said.
Commenting on the need to have sufficient food reserves across the country, the Vice Chairman of Dangote Foods, Sani Dangote agreed that food security is a reality that has shown up fully due to the current pandemic. Nigeria needs to concentrate on building strategy towards food security by looking at the particular grain or produce that can sustain the country in case of shortage or pandemic, he said.
“For instance, there are no statistics to show the quantity of rice or maize produced yearly in Nigeria even at the state level. The country also needs to focus on the irrigation scheme to assist farmers in their crop production while a strong local sourcing policy is put in place in a coordinated approach among stakeholders in agriculture and the private companies that rely on agriculture,” he added.
Describing measures taken by the government to strengthen the national response for food security, the Managing Director of the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL Plc), Aliyu Abdulhameed said the agency was working with the Central Bank of Nigeria to provide guarantees for farmers and other technical support that they may require for a good harvest.
The CBN through the NIRSAL has put in place funds to boost smallholder farmers before, after and post COVID-19 by focusing on three things which are risk analysis, agriculture finance and development.
Reacting to the trajectory in Nigeria, the Co-founder of Sahel Consulting, Ndidi Okonkwo-Nwuneli maintained that there have been issues in the agricultural sector pre-COVID-19. However, now that those issues have been further exposed, there is a greater need for collaborations across all relevant sectors.