Data and news from several global organizations (including UNICEF and WHO), have always pointed in one direction—Nigeria has acute food insecurity and the government needs to do something about it. According to the October Cadre Harmonise, a government-led and UN-supported food and nutrition analysis, about 25 million Nigerians were predicted to be likely food insecure between June and August 2023 (which is the lean season). UNICEF also reported that an estimated 2.9 million people are currently critically food insecure, and the figure is projected to increase to 4.3 million.
Well, these figures seem really abstract, but the price of food in Nigeria can really put things in perspective. For example, during the administration of Muhammadu Buhari, the former president put a ban on the importation of rice. According to him and his cabinet members, the policy was to encourage Nigerians to buy Nigerian rice and make foreign exchange spent in importing it stay in the country. Immediately the policy came into effect, the price of a bag of rice skyrocketed. Although there were alternative locally grown and processed rice, their quality was very low, often containing stones and hardening up after being boiled.
Agric minister announces 2,000-tractor production.
Since then, the Federal Government has formulated several policies and come up with initiatives on paper. But they never translated to abundant food or decrease in food prices. Now, one of such initiatives has been announced recently. The Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Abubakar Kyari, has said that the production of 2,000 tractors in-country yearly would enhance food production, create jobs for Nigerian farmers, especially women, and youth as well as achieve food and nutrition security in the country.
He stated this when he received a delegation from John Deere led by its Vice President, Jason Brantley, with the Chairman and Directors of Flour Mills Nigeria, as well as Country Director of Tata Africa Services, Mr. Chijioke Okoli, also present. He noted that the visit was a follow-up to the meeting between Nigeria’s Vice President Ibrahim Shettima and top officials of John Deere at the recent World Food Prize Foundation held in Iowa, the United States. When these tractors are produced, the minister stated that the government would not off-take them but provide the enabling environment to make the tractors affordable at low-interest rate to Nigerian farmers and boost all-year round farming.
There are underlying issues to food insecurity in the country.
In his remarks, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Aliyu Abudullahi, stressed the need to evaluate existing co-operatives and ascertain those that require support to enable them access the tractors when available. He emphasized the importance of identifying crops that are most suitable for mechanization. Also in his intervention, Brantley said that the company was exploring the feasibility of hiring, acquisition and production, in addition to after-sales services, supply of genuine spare parts and training of operators and mechanics. He said that the capacity of the tractors would range between 75 and 90 horsepower for use in different terrains in the country, according to a statement by the ministry’s Assistant Director of Information.
Beyond all of these, there seems to be some underlying issues that should be addressed as a matter of urgency. One of them is the farmer-herder clash, which has claimed the lives of farmers and resulted in the destruction of farmlands and crops. Bandits reportedly tax farmers before these farmers can go on to their farms. Anyone who refuses to pay, runs the risk of being attacked, kidnapped or even killed. For this reason, many are abandoning their farms and venturing into other businesses.
Facilities need to be fixed to boost food availability.
Additionally, Nigeria has poor road networks. Many of the roads linking major cities to food-producing states are so bad that it takes the strong-hearted to work them. When the roads are bad, more time is spent transporting food from the farm to consumers. This also increases cost, which when the price of petrol increased also skyrocketed. The country needs to invest in all these facilities and desist from banning importation especially when the country lacks the production capacity to fill the gaps.