At The Guardian event, stakeholders ask FG to tackle food insecurity
• Urge end to Nigeria’s $22b yearly import bill
• Farmers accuse lending banks of blocking access to facility
Hinging their arguments on the premise that there is a correlation between food availability and security, stakeholders in the agro-food industry have said the nation’s achievements of over five decades could be undermined by poverty and hunger if government fails to address the food import bill.
Indeed, with the nation struggling to manage its yearly food bill of $22 billion due to inadequate foreign exchange and lackadaisical attitude to the agricultural sector, the stakeholders warned of a looming famine, citing the Venezuelan scenario.
Besides, they noted that despite efforts to improve agriculture’s contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), commercial banks were denying access to funds under the Anchor programme of the Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN), even as the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) explores a regional Cabotage Act to aid market access and connectivity within the ECOWAS bloc.
Speaking at The Guardian’s Conferences and Masterclasses on food security with the theme “Exploring Nigeria’s agro-food industry potential and export competitiveness,” Chairman of the newspaper’s Editorial Board, Prof. Wale Omole, emphasised the need for government to revisit agriculture as a business if the nation must be self-sufficient in food production.
According to him, hunger has serious consequences as there is bound to be increase in crime rate.
“Food is security. It is indeed a national security issue. There are stories of how hungry citizens now steal pots of soup from the kitchen. This kind of crime is triggered by hunger. When there is hunger, there is bound to be anger, belligerence, aggression and robbery,” he added.
Emphasising the need for value-addition, Omole said: “Producing raw materials alone cannot lead to wealth creation unless we do more value-creation business with our raw materials. We should consider how one company that manufactures chocolate, can earn seven times more than a whole country that farms and exports cocoa.”
Consul-General, South African Consulate, Darkey Ephraim Africa, noted that the continent was looking up to Nigeria and his country to lead the crusade for the development of the continent, urging institutional cooperation between the two countries.
Member, Technical Committee, British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF), Fatai Afolabi, stated that the problem with the agricultural sector was more of talk than implementation, noting that several local council chairmen and councillors did not know about food production and instead relied on all manner of levies and taxes.
Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, argued that exportation was crucial to the survival of any country, adding the nation was in a messy situation because vessels leave its shores with empty containers.
He explained that the ability of a country to sell her products at the international market is a precondition for survival in today’s globalised environment.
The Managing Director, Psaltry International Company Limited, Mrs Yemisi Iranloye, advocated increased support for farmers and investors in the out-grower scheme, adding that government needs to incentivise activities in the agric sector for its contributions to be meaningful.