Some stakeholders in Nigeria’s agricultural sector have expressed mixed feelings on the recent declaration of a state of emergency on food security in the country by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The stakeholders anchored their misgivings on the extent of food insecurity in Nigeria and the number of hectares of farmlands the president mentioned in his speech.

They further noted the state of insecurity in Nigeria’s farming belts, and the possibility that the programme could be hijacked by economic rent seeking individuals disguising themselves as farmers.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigerians expended N22.78 trillion on food items in 2019, representing 56.65 percent of the nation’s consumption expenditure.

The most consumed food items as of 2019 were starchy roots, tubers and plantains, rice, vegetables, fish and seafoods, grains and flours, among others.

Total nationwide expenditure on starchy foods, tubers and plantains was N2.53 trillion, followed by rice, N1.98 trillion; vegetables, N1.76 trillion; fish and seafoods N1.33 trillion; grains and flours, N1.28 trillion; pulses, nuts and seeds, N1.19 trillion; meat, N1.19 trillion, and fruits, N1.01 trillion, in that order.

The NBS further stated that Nigerians living in urban areas spent 51.52 percent of their expenditure on food, while those in the rural areas expended 61.30 percent of their expenditure on food items.

The Nigerian Observer sought the views of individuals and corporate farmers in Nigeria on their assessment of the President’s latest move. As at the time of filing this report, some have not responded to our enquiries, others preferred not to speak on national issues.

Those who responded, while welcoming the pronouncement, said the programme could go the same path of similar programmes implemented in the past which did not achieve the desired objectives due to the focus of their models and scope of implementation.

Ayopo Somefun, a farmer cum agricultural consultant, said that while the move was long overdue, the 500,000 hectares committed to food production for a country of Nigeria’s status in terms of size, population and consumption pattern is too small to make any meaningful impact.

Related News

He said: “I have read through President Tinubu’s declaration. It is a timely intervention. There is hardly a family in Nigeria which has food security. Do we have a family that has what to eat throughout a month without recourse to going to the market? Nigeria has been experiencing famine for a long time, which is a situation where there is not enough food to eat. If there is a lockdown for a month, many will die.

“Our current maize production is about 11 million metric tons versus demand of 15 million metric tons. Our wheat production is less than 500,000 tons, and we use five million metric tons of wheat annually.

“Most of the cowpeas that come to Nigeria are from Burkina Faso. We have oranges and pineapples coming from Benin Republic. In the last Sallah, about 100,000 families slaughtered rams in Ogun Central Senatorial District and at an average price of N100,000 per ram, that was about N10 billion. This is not to talk about the entire country.”

He continued: “The reason why those agricultural interventions failed in the past was because they focused on individuals and not families. President Tinubu wanted to encourage the cultivation of 500,000 hectares. He will be lucky to get 10,000 hectares. This is because the 500,000 hectares will require 10,000 brand new bulldozers working continuously for 150 days. Can FG afford to get those new bulldozers?”

It would be recalled that Nigeria was ranked as number 107 in the Global Food Security Index 2022 scoring 42 points out of 113 countries. In the ranking, zero (0) means most unfavourable, while 100 means most favourable food secure environment.

Countries ranked in the same category as Nigeria included war-torn Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Congo Democratic Republic and countries currently undergoing economic upheavals such as Haiti and Venezuela, among others.

“Well, it can lead to an increase in food production but it is the outcome that will actually prove whether it is really worthwhile. This is because implementation can be the deal-maker or deal-breaker.

“Since insecurity is a major problem of low food production and scarcity, the state of emergency should include very strong security provided to major farming communities, else the efforts may be futile,” Yinka Alawode, an agricultural consultant and CEO Farm Café, said.

She added that since transport cost is a major factor in moving produce from farm gate to the market, the FG should enter into partnership with the private sector players to alleviate the sufferings of the farming communities in the rural areas in Nigeria.

Okomu Oil and Presco, agro-allied heavyweights based in Edo State, were yet to respond to our enquiries as of the time of filing this report.