Some Nigerian farmers’ associations have called for urgent government intervention to avert post COVID-19 food shortages in the country.
They called on the governments at all level to provide farmers with incentives to boost the nation’s food production.
The associations made the plea during a Webinar session with the Guild of Nigerian Agriculture Journalists, GNAJ, in Lagos.
The theme of the session was “What can Nigeria do to Limit Post COVID-19 Impacts on Agriculture?”
Kabir Ibrahim, the National President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN, noted that the nation’s food security was being threatened by farmers’ inability to access seeds and other farm inputs.
“It is absolutely necessary to upscale production so that we can take care of the 200 million mouths we have to take care of in Nigeria.
“If there is shortage of food, it will be more devastating than the COVID-19 itself because hunger will affect more in terms of population.
““The pandemic will affect the productivity of agriculture in Nigeria.
“Farmers are already complaining, seeds and other input are not getting to where they are needed from the production levels.
“Productivity will be down by 65 per cent because farming will start late in some areas.
“We are going to be very lucky to meet the demands of food this year.
“We have survived so far mainly because we closed our borders before now so we have food internally.
“So from now, we will not be able to store anything in our silos unless we meet the demands of the population.
Therefore, everybody and all cross-cutting issues around agriculture like energy, security and transportation should work,’’ he said
Mr Kabir also said that there was the possibility of Nigeria’s economy to soon depend solely on agriculture because of the current falling prices of crude oil.
He said that if the government would reposition the nation’s agriculture sector, farmers would be able to pay high taxes to make the sector the mainstay of the economy.
Mr Kabir, who said that the Africa Development Bank, AFDB, had plan to support farmers with fertilizers, seeds and agro inputs added that the farmers had yet to receive them for this year’s farming season.
Also speaking, Dr Bello Funtua, the President of Maize Association of Nigeria, MAAN, said that the 2020 target of 25 million metric tons of maize could drop by 30 per cent.
Mr Funtua said that the pandemic affected the dry season farming already embarked upon by some farmers in 2019/2020 that could not go to their farms to harvest the crops.
He noted that COVID-19, being a global issue, was already affecting the economies of the world including Nigeria, and especially the agriculture sector.
He said that farmers who planted in 2019/2020 dry season were affected because by the time they were about to go for harvest, this problem came in and hindered their movement to the farms.
“Our production for this year was 25 million tons target but because of the COVID-19 challenge, we have realised that it would be difficult to meet that target.
“We will thank God if we are able to reach 70 per cent of our target because of the challenges which are too many.
“We need the government to look into this again critically because farmers cannot access inputs from their suppliers,” he said.
Mr Funtua commended President Muhammadu Buhari and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s, ongoing efforts at ensuring that farmers were supported to return to their farms.
Prof. Nafiu Abdu, President of Soybean Farmers Association of Nigeria, SOFAN, also noted how the pandemic had affected the cost of agricultural inputs.
Mr Abdu said that farmers were already producing at a loss as the price of a bag of soybeans had remained stable in three months and sometimes below the production cost.
According to him, the subsector’s target of one million of 100kg bags of soybeans will reduce to 500,000 bags due the pandemic and other factors.
“Our farmers are apprehensive as a result of the pandemic, especially with the rise in the cost of input.
“When farmers harvest their produce some will keep it until the price goes up a little bit so they can make profit.
“But because of COVID-19, the price has remained stable for over three months in some cases the price is dropping.
“And this will affect farmers because they will not get back investment from the last growing season.
“Access to farms is also a problem as well as access to CBN funds.
“We had a target of one million bags of 100kg this season but unfortunately most farmers were unable to get their BVN which is a prerequisite for loan from CBN, which reduced our farmers going to farm this year.
“Our production will reduce by 50 per cent,’’ he said.
Similary, Salim Mohammed, President of Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria, WFAN, said that it would be a miracle for the wheat farmers to meet their 2020 target of about 36,000 metric tons.
Mr Mohammed said that it was important for the Federal Government to give priority to the production of wheat in the country.
“No nation can stand except it can say it is sufficient in food production.
“There should be a roundtable discussion among players to figure out the challenges and way forward.
“Wheat has become a political commodity because there is a high demand and consumption of wheat (in the form of bread, pasta and others) every day and in every house in the country.
“This pandemic has an effect on all farmers but especially wheat farmers because this is our harvest period.
“We have put in a lot of machinery for this period like warehouses and others but the restrictions will not permit farmers to go to their different farms.
“If they harvest how do they transport them from state to state?’’ he said.
Mohammed said that the association was working at driving the sector, but that they needed government’s support in boosting their production.
“If you look at rate of consumption per capital, we consume more wheat than how we consume rice.
“The sub-sector needs more attention as we have over 650,000 hectares of land we can cultivate during the dry season.
“Sincerely, if we are going to have an output it will not be more than 30 per cent because the harvest calendar is dysfunctional, farmers did not plant at the same time,” he said.
Mr Ezekiel Ibrahim, President of Poultry Association of Nigeria, PAN, also said that the recent pandemic had revealed challenges being faced in the distribution network of food production.
According to him, the pandemic has a very devastating effect on the poultry industry.
He thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for his foresight since 2015 in promoting “produce what we eat and eat what we produce.
“The situation we would have been today is better imagined if we were import dependent.
“The recent challenge has also made us realise that agriculture is not only about production but also about distribution.
“Our distribution network is very poor, today we have enough food but we cannot distribute it around and that has greatly affected the poultry industry.
“I am hoping that egg should be made a priority because it is a single product that has all the nutrients in it.”