Experts advocate review of food
By Nkiruka Nnorom & Princewill Ekwujuru
PricewaterouseCooper, PwC, world’s leading accounting and management firm, has indicated that Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is putting pressure on food prices, posing a major threat to Nigeria’s food security.
This was the focus of its latest publication, “Responding to the impact of COVID-19 on food security and agriculture in Nigeria”.
Meanwhile, some other experts in agriculture and food security have advocated a review of the national food security structure to address an imminent food security crisis that may hit Nigeria as a result of the effect of the COVID-19 in the agricultural sector.
The PwC report stated: “With COVID-19, the challenges hampering the attainment of food security in Nigeria could deepen. The impact is already being felt in the form of rising food prices. As at April 2020, food inflation rose to 15% compared to 14.7% in December 2019.”
It noted that intra and interstate movement restrictions in place could hinder farmers from accessing their farms in other states locations or from procuring inputs such as seedlings and farm implements, thereby threatening the country’s food security.
Panelists at the BusinessDay National Conversation on Mapping Nigeria’s response to Covid-19, drew attention to what should be done to prevent a major crises in the food sector.
In her opening remarks, the Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications Africa at UpfieldFoods, Motola Oyebanjo, said conversations around improved food security and systems is a discussion that must be prioritized particularly now that Covid-19 has impacted socio-economic activities on a global scale.
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.
“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,” Dangote said.
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 is working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) 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.