The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Abubakar, has claimed that acts of terrorism in the northern part of the country have not significantly affected agricultural production.
He stated this at the State House, Abuja, during a news briefing on Thursday.
The minister had while answering a question on the reported inability of farmers in Northern Nigeria to access their farms, said though the federal government was concerned about the development, it had not significantly hampered food production.
He said, “About farmers not being able to access their farms in the North-east, North-west, and North-central, yes, it’s a concern for the government. However, if you notice, our production still has not dropped to any significant level and it’s one of the reasons why we have this arrangement for the agro-rangers to provide some measure of security to be able to access the farms.”
The Nigerian government has attempted to diversify its economy away from oil and prioritized agricultural production in recent years.
Despite deadly attacks by terrorists and bandits in the country, records by the United States Department of Agriculture showed that there was marginal improvement in the production of some key staples in 2021.
For instance, Nigeria’s rice production rose from 4.89 million metric tonnes in 2020 to 5.0 million metric tonnes in 2021, while maize production increased from 10.0 million metric tonnes produced in 2020 to 11.6 million metric tonnes in 2021.
Also, wheat production rose to 99.0 million metric tonnes from 55.0 million metric tonnes recorded last year.
But in spite of this marginal growth, Nigeria still relies significantly on food imports. United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said only 57 per cent of the 6.7 million metric tonnes of rice consumed in Nigeria annually is produced locally, resulting in a deficit of about 2 million metric tonnes, which is either imported or smuggled into the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has come up with different intervention programmes and expended billions of naira to diversify economy through agriculture.
However, the effort has not generated the expected impetus for agricultural production and food sufficiency. Instead, Nigerians grapple with widespread food shortages and price increases.
A report published by Forbes in February this year, noted that agriculture contributes to one-third of the Nigeria’s GDP with more than 80 per cent of Nigerians, who are smallholder farmers, producing over 90 per cent of the country’s domestic output on 33 per cent of its land.
It is a known fact that insecurity in the northern parts of the country had forced a lot of smallholder farmers to abandon their farmlands and flee their communities to urban areas or take shelter in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.
Acknowledging this, the report stressed that, “These disruptions have hurt agricultural supply and have led to inflated prices of agricultural produce. At a national level, since July 2020, staples such as beans and tomatoes have seen a 253% and 123% surge in prices, respectively.
“In July 2020, a measure of beans (called Mudu) sold for 73 cents (N305.48), but by July 2021, it was selling for $2.16 (N900). The prices of other commodities like bread, onions, and cassava flour, have also risen exponentially.”
The report observed with dismay that despite the sector’s significant contributions to economic stability and employment, the insurgence of banditry, terrorism, and kidnapping, have led to hikes in food prices and increased reliance on imports.
Also, the FAO last year estimated that 12.8 million Nigerians will go into famine between June and August 2021.
The report identified insecurity especially insurgency in the North-east states, mostly in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe and banditry in some North-west states such as Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna States, as well as North-central states of Benue and Niger as key drivers to the impending food crisis.
In March this year, it stated in another report that about 19.4 million people will face food insecurity across Nigeria between June and August 2022.
The report noted that the food crisis will affect Nigerians in 21 states and FCT including, 416,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
It said about 14.4 million people including 385,000 IDPs in 21 States and FCT of Nigeria were already in the food crisis till May 2022.
The analysis for the month of March covered Abia, Adamawa, Benue, Borno, Cross-River, Edo, Enugu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Lagos, Niger, Plateau, Sokota, Tarba, Yobe, and Zamfara, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Going by the statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture on food production in Nigeria in 2021, the minister’s claim could be said to be correct. However, in light of continued displacement of farmers and growing food shortage, a significant drop in food production is imminent in the country if the government fails to effectively tackle insecurity.
This fact check was done in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)