Business

Farmers: Groaning over zero storage facilities

Recently, a research and strategic communications consulting firm, SBM Intel, revealed that about 47 per cent of Nigerian farmers had no access to post-harvest storage facilities in the country, a development with serious economic implication. Taiwo Hassan reports

One of the biggest challenges confronting Nigeria’s food security agenda today has been that of farm produce storage facilities, which have been in one way or the other led to setbacks to farming activities by Nigerian farmers. Indeed, lack of adequate farm storage facilities has been a topical discussion in the country’s agric sector following huge investment and revenue losses incurred by local farmers during harvesting. In fact, the quantum of postharvest loss in the country’s agric sector and the national economy in general cannot be quantified. Basically, the federal and state governments, including agric stakeholders, have been deliberating to solve permanently the situation.

FG’s assurance

In 2020, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had assured Nigerian farmers of Federal Government’s plan to end post-harvest losses due to poor storage facilities in the country. Osinbajo explained that post-harvest losses due to poor storage facilities for the nation’s agriculture produce would soon be a thing of the past under the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, if more storage and processing facilities like the new storage facility in Benue State were established around the country. No doubt, this was indeed glaring news for Nigerian farmers, who have been battling with the issue of excessive heat exposure for their crops because of lack of storage facilities thereby making them to lose billions of naira as income as those perishable crops rotten away where they were stored.

Economic implications

Ironically, in spite of Nigeria’s nearly two million tonnes annually of agric produce, yet up to 40 per cent of the crop never makes it to the market, thereby impacting food security and smallholder farmers’ income. In fact, lack of preservation technology for produce in terms of method of storing the perishable crops out in the open has exposed the produce to wind, flies and other natural threats. Statistically, inadequate storage, processing facilities and wastages in tomatoes value chain is costing the country’s economy about $15 billion in post-harvest losses annual. However, stakeholders have suggested that the challenges facing the country’s tomato value chain need a holistic effort to address post-harvest losses in the country. Ideally, Nigeria has the po-tential to grow 6000 tonnes of fresh tomatoes yearly but is yet to capitalise on the potential due to the inability of the federal government to effectively implement policies that would drive investments and serve as incentive for farmers to grow more.

Research outcome

Research and strategic communications consulting firm, SBM Intel, has revealed that about 47 per cent of Nigerian farmers have no access to post-harvest storage facilities. This was contained in a research documentation titled “Nigerians just want to eat: Analysis of Farmers and Food Transporters challenges likely to impede National Food Security.” According to the firm, this inadequacy could lead to post-harvest losses for the farmers, who they also noted, may not be able to arrest the situation by acquiring their storage facilities. The report read: “In our survey, almost half (47 per cent) of the farmers interviewed had no access to any kind of storage facilities. “The lack of storage facilities contributes to post-harvest losses which could get as high as 60 per cent for tubers, fruits and vegetables.” SBM also revealed the situation had forced a lot of farmers to sell their produce to others with warehouses.

Food price increase

Soaring food prices among other factors had led to a projection of acute food crisis, from various key players. To this end, the report suggested more proactive short and longterm measures to prevent such occurrences.

Border reopening

According to the report, border opening and adoption of Climate-Smart agriculture could help prevent food shortages across the country. “In the immediate, the government must fully reopen land borders and end the ban on using forex to import staple crops. “After placing maize on the list of items no longer eligible for foreign exchange only on 14 July 2020, the President announced the release of 30,000 tons of maize from emergency reserves on 2 September, and also approved four firms for the importation of 200,000 tons of maize. “This could replicate itself for items like rice and cassava in the coming months, items which millions of Nigerians depend on for sustenance. “For the longer term, wider adoption of irrigation, facilitating the provision of early maturing and drought-resistant crop varieties and a switch to climate-smart agriculture is the best way to guard against crop failure and poor yields,” the report read in part.

Last line

From the SBM research, it is alarming that a country like Nigeria that prides itself the giant of Africa following the largest.

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