On October 16, 2020, the global community celebrated this year’s World Food Day with theme ‘Grow, Nourish, Sustain Together. Our Actions Are Our Future’.
To commemorate the annual event, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, last Tuesday, reeled out statistics which point to food security in the country, praising President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime for supposedly boosting food and livestock production exponentially.
The minister complemented the rosy statistics by explaining that “To boost food security, Nigeria has curbed imports and has established a robust rice production programme to encourage more rice production at home. Efforts in this direction are starting to show results as Nigeria is now Africa’s largest producer of rice. The country is also the largest producer of cassava in the world. A range of policies and initiatives to strengthen the rice and cassava value chains have been put in place. The economic potentials of both livestock and fisheries are also being harnessed and respective value chains selected and targeted for development. In an attempt to diversify the economy, the federal government has continued with its renewed focus on the agricultural sector. The government has deepened the culture with the Anchor Borrower Programme initiative and ban on the importation of some agro-commodities.’’
He argued further that “Growth has also been recorded for groundnut, tomatoes, and sorghum production. Cattle beef, milk and fish production also rose by 166%, 146% and 11% respectively between 2018 and 2019. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the National Bureau of Statistics report indicates that Nigeria’s National Agricultural Import Bill also reduced from 1.2 to 1.1 billion Naira…’’
However, these figures run contrary to the inflationary trend and prevailing hunger in Nigeria. For instance, in spite of the chest-thumping about increased rice production, the cost of local rice has increased to about N25,000 per bag of 50kg, making it unaffordable for many households in Nigeria. It is difficult to understand why increased food production has not translated to reduced prices and increased access to this staple food. Also, the Global Food Crisis Report 2020 is very clear about the predicament faced by Nigerians. The report, based on the situation in the country in 2019, showed that all parts of Nigeria faced food crisis, especially the North-East, North-West and North-Central states, which have been ravaged by insecurity and displacement of millions of Nigerians.
The Global Food Crisis Report 2020 said the following about Nigeria: “With insecurity preventing them from accessing their land, only 50 per cent of households in Borno and around a third in Yobe and Adamawa were able to sow crops in the 2019 season (CILSS-CH, 2019.) The conflict also limited pastoralists’ access to grazing areas and veterinary services (FAO-GIEWS, September 2019). Insecurity in Benue, Plateau, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto states prevented people from engaging in normal livelihood activities. In Plateau, conflict between herders and farmers reduced the area planted, and crop production was below average (CILSS-CH, 2019). In some areas, harvests were either looted or burned by bandits. Traders avoided affected areas due to fear of attacks, limiting trade flows and market supplies in some of the worst-affected parts of Katsina and Zamfara states. In some areas of Katsina, growing tall crops such as maize, millet, and sorghum was restricted within distances of 1-2 kilometres of settlements for fear of attacks by bandits, limiting local staple production to short crops, such as rice, cow peas, groundnuts and sweet potatoes (FEWS NET, June 2019).”
The situation above presents a more realistic picture of the state of food (in)security in Nigeria than the figures circulated by the minister. Though government boasts about its Anchor Borrowers Programme as a signature agriculture project, there is acute evidence of massive default in its repayment, which is not good for business. In order to boost food production, marketing boards that mop up excess production should be set up to guarantee prices instead of leaving farmers at the mercy of middlemen who operate as shylocks. Also, it is time to halt the spiralling insecurity which has brought the agricultural sector to its knees.