Business

Coasting home to hunger over farming disruptions

The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) various interventions, support to agriculture sector through Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) and other initiatives are being drained by pervading insecurity challenge, ABDULWAHAB ISA reports.

Nigeria is facing a full blown food crisis. The situation is dire and scary with the potential of a looming famine unless urgent remedial measures are taken. Lately, Nigerians are lamentating and expressing frustration over daily escalation of food prices. Food items top prices at a speed of light at short intervals. According to the latest food index of National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, all food items experienced galloping price increments in the month of July. Not too long ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) raised the alarm about the unabated food price increases. The bank urged the Federal Government to initiate measures to arrest the trend. A recent report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the global food organisation, raised similar concern. It noted that about 9.2 million people in Nigeria faced a food crisis between March and May 2021. To declare that Nigeria is passing through a difficult phase in her history as a nation, a difficulty thrown by the food crisis, is to affirm an obvious fact.

NBS’ food items data

National Bureau of Statistics’ food items index is a barometer for tracking price of food items at intervals. This index indicates a steady and consistent rise in prices of food items over time for the past several months. Like other preceding months, food index data in July revealed a steady rise in food prices. Although the rate of inflation decelerated in July by 0.37 per cent points lower than the rate recorded in June 2021 (17.75%), food items are under steady rise in prices. “The rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of milk, cheese and eggs, coffee, tea and cocoa, vegetables, bread and cereals, soft drinks, and meat. “On a month-on-month basis, the core sub-index increased by 1.31 per cent in July 2021. This was up by 0.50 per cent when compared with 0.81 percent recorded in June 2021. The highest increases were recorded in prices of garments, shoes and other footwear, clothing materials, other articles of clothing and clothing accessories, vehicle spare parts, major household appliances whether electric or not, pharmaceutical products, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing, furniture and furnishing, medical services and hospital services,” NBS revealed in July data. Lamentations over skyrocketing cost of living Citizens’ angst over astronomical rise across all food items is deepening. A housewife, Mrs. Sabtat Abdullahi, lives in Dei- Dei, an outskirt of Abuja. She shared her experience with this medium. According to her, she bought a specific measure of white beans for N1,050 at Madalla open market last Thursday. “I was in Madalla market last Thursday. I got some measure of white beans for N1,050, red ones sold for N1, 200. We were buying the same measure for between N450 to N500 last year and N320 before the advent of Covid-19 in 2019. “A 12.5 kilogram of gas cost N7,000 to fill to capacity. It was N3,800 early this year. Rice, tomatoes; eggs and every item has tripled in price. The rise in food prices is corresponding to a stagnant purchasing power, “ she lamented. Continuing, she said the cost of filling the gas had also tumbled, a development she said complicated an already excruciating situation. The rise in food prices and by extension high cost of living is influenced by insecurity. The menace of bandits, random abduction of famers and foodstuff traders is the root cause of current scarcity of food items. Farmers have been denied free access to their farm by bandits and herdsmen.

CBN alarm over food insecurity

Reflecting on the escalating food crisis, the Central Bank of Nigeria urged the Federal Government to take urgent remedial measures to avert food insecurity. Speaking recently in Uyo, Akwa Ibom, CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, warned that the food crisis being experienced in the country could worsen if urgent and resilient steps were not taken to address the situation. The Uyo event was CBN’s 2021 CBN Executive Seminar. Emefiele expressed worry over severe disruptions to the agricultural value chain due to security challenges in the country and the COVID-19 health crisis. He was represented by CBN’s Deputy Governor, Economic Policy, Dr Kingsley Obiora. Making reference to FAO data, which alluded that at least 9.2 million people in Nigeria faced food crisis between March and May, he said the fact that the United Nations projected Nigeria’s population to be 398 million by 2050 challenged Nigeria’s common will to implement strategies targeted at achieving food security. Emefiele said the theme of the seminar, “Food Security in Nigeria: Options for Policy,” was apt now that security issues, climate change, and COVID-19 related disruptions were challenging food production and supply, not only in Nigeria but also in the global economy. According to him, “I note with concern the severe disruptions to the agricultural value chain caused by the security challenges in the country and the COVID-19 health crisis, as households continue to grapple with the production, processing, and distribution of food with undesirable effects on livelihoods. “To amplify this concern, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation has reported that at least 9.2 million people in Nigeria faced a food crisis between March and May 2021. “Due to insecurity and the effects of COVID-19 health crisis, as well as climate change, the figure could increase further if no urgent and resilient actions were implemented. “Ladies and gentlemen, a glimpse into the future would reveal an imminent food crisis. “The United Nations has projected Nigeria’s population to be around 398 million people by 2050, far exceeding that of the United States of America. This number challenges our common will to implement strategies targeted at achieving food security and safety, as failure to do so could subject the population to the risks of hunger and diseases.” He tasked the participants to painstakingly discuss the issues around the theme of the seminar with a view to articulating innovative and workable solutions that would lead to improved productivity and increased food supply for the nation.

Initiative to stem food insecurity

The apex bank initiated several measures to boost food production. Under the watch of Emefiele, the bank spearheads several support initiatives to agriculture. The support is aimed at increasing food production, creating job opportunities, and diversifying the economy. The bank released the sum of N987.825 billion under its N1 trillion Real Sector Facility to 262 real sector projects on agriculture, manufacturing, mining and services sectors. It disbursed over N802.920 billion to 3,038,899 farmers cultivating more than 4.7 million hectares of land across the 36 states and FCT under the Anchors Borrowers’ Programme (ABP). According to the governor, “the programme has helped the participating farmers to improve their yields, especially maize, from initial 1.5-2.0 metric tons per hectare, to an average of 5.0 metric tons per hectare, while that of rice improved to 4.0 metric tons per hectare, from 1.5-2.0 metric tons. “Under the scheme, the bank has disbursed N134.568 billion to about 38,140 beneficiaries. Under the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme, the bank has disbursed more than N708.388 billion to finance about 652 projects since inception. “Under the Targeted Credit Facility (TCF), more than N343.206 billion has been disbursed to 726,198 beneficiaries. The scheme was established in 2020, as a stimulus package to support households and businesses affected by COVID-19 across the country.”

Way out

Pervasive insecurity is the root cause of current high prices of food items. It’s push cost effect triggers the current high cost of living. Security is the responsibility of the government and not monetary policy function. The Federal Government must sustain the current efforts to dislodge bandits from farm bases to enable farmers access their farmlands unhindered. When farmers path to their farms is de- risk of abduction, with no fear of kidnap; food items will be in the market in abundance. The availability of food items in their abundance will crash the cost of food items.

Last line

Dislodging bandits from forest and finding a permanent solution to herders and farmers crisis is key to averting looming food crisis.

 

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