Despite several pro-growth and food security policies and programmes, many Nigerians are malnourished. Reason: skyrocketing food prices. To address the problem, participants at a forum organised by Akindelano Legal Practitioners (ALP), Lagos, advocated the adoption of technologies that will make crops resilient to weather and boost farmers’ income. DANIEL ESSIET reports.
Policy makers, experts and scientists have canvassed an urgent action to engage more youths in agricultural production to tackle unemployment and food insecurity.
More than 100 delegates from various sectors gathered in Lagos to discuss approaches to boosting agricultural production.
Organised by Akindelano Legal Practitioners (ALPs), under the theme: Transforming Nigeria’s agriculture and agro-allied industry, the seminar looked at the challenges facing the industry and what should be done to overcome them.
The forum brought together agribusinesses and farmers.
Participants agreed that the focus should be on resource-efficient technologies that make agriculture a viable source of income. These technologies can include improved irrigation systems, appropriate fertiliser and pesticide application as well as other technologies to make high-value agricultural production possible.
The Deputy Director-General for Partnerships for Delivery, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Dr Kenton Dashiell , said extreme poverty and hunger would be a thing of the past if farmers and researchers were innovative in the development of a sustainable and efficient agricultural sector.
According to him, the stagnant state of commercial seed production is a key reason why yields per hectare are lower here than what farmers outside Nigeria achieve.
Dashiell said more work was needed to improve seed systems, through encouraging local research institutes and locally-owned seed companies, and installing mechanisms to reach farmers with the “improved” seeds.
He said the researches on cassava, maize, sorghum and cow peas were great successes for the farmers.
He said farmers have a chance to boost their food production from researches conducted by the institute.
Dashiell said: “If we can successfully achieve youth engagement in the agricultural sector, we will be addressing food security as well as the growing youth unemployment.”
According to him, it was high time the government and the private sector found ways to engage more youths in agricultural production, which is not possible without the support of leaders.
Together, he noted, that IITA was ready to work with organisations to find solutions to engage and attract more youth to agriculture; and one of the key solutions is to promote farming as a sustainable means of income, providing youths with financial support, spreading awareness about agripreneurship, and equipping them with best farming technologies.
Ogun State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mrs. Adepeju Adebajo said agriculture, and food processing sector should be efficient in terms of logistics, transit costs and infrastructure to be competitive. The proximity to various transportation platforms, according to her, would provide necessary infrastructure facilities and hinterland connectivity, thus ensuring a reduction in logistics costs.
Mrs. Adebajo maintained that growing interest in Ogun as a business destination had led to more freight throughput and placed more pressure on its humble infrastructure. So, every hand is on deck to address inadequate infrastructure and high logistics costs which could hold back progress.
Vice President Corporate & Government Relations, Olam Nigeria, Ade Adefeko, urged farmers to step up efforts towards improving competitiveness and productivity.
Adefeko said Olam was investing $150 million in two state-of-the-art animal feed mills, poultry breeding farms and a hatchery to produce day-old-chicks in Nigeria.
Of the $150 million, $100 million has been committed to building facilities in Kaduna State while the balance will be invested in an integrated poultry and fish feed mill in Kwara State.
Besides, there is also an ongoing 10,000-hectare rice farm and mill in Nasarawa State.
Partner, Business Development and Research Department, ALP, John Delano said the firm’s seminar series was conceived in 2012 as a forum for discourse about commercial, practical and legal issues facing businesses as Nigeria seeks to navigate its way into a modern economy.
Meanwhile, food prices has increased by 19.91 per cent year-on-year in June compared to a 19.27 per cent in May, according to statistics provided by trading economics.com.
The study showed that Nigeria has recorded the highest food inflation this year. Since February 2009, costs rose faster for meat, bread and cereals, fish, potatoes, yam and other tubers, oils and fats, milk, cheese, eggs, coffee, tea and cocoa.
It said food inflation averaged 11.24 per cent from 1996 until this year, reaching an all-time high of 39.54 percent in September 2001 and a record low of -17.50 percent in January 2000.
Similarly, consumer prices increased 16.10 per cent year-on-year in June, the least in 13 months, compared to 16.25 per cent in May.
The study also added that consumer prices increased by 16.25 percent year-on-year in May, easing from a 17.24 per cent rise in the previous month.
In addition, inflation rate fell for the fourth straight month to the lowest in 12 months, led by a general slowdown in prices.
Yearly core inflation rate was 13.02 per cent, the lowest since March last year.
Monthly, consumer prices increased 1.88 per cent.
According to experts, food prices have risen at their fastest pace for more than three years as retailers passed on surging costs.
Consequently, food retailers and restaurants have been grappling with rising cost from naira’s plunge in value, which makes it more expensive to import.
It was learnt that cost of living hit high roofs as prices of food became all time astronomical, with increase in price climbing more than 200 per cent of their prices.
For instance, a bag of 50kg rice still sells for N18,000, despite efforts to bring it down to N13,000.
A food seller, Abia Oyeneka, lamented that the increase of food prices is beginning to be worrisome.
Reacting to this, two experts, Dr Paul Ilona and Dr Olufemi Oladunni called for measures to contain inflationary pressure with food price prices rising at their fastest pace in more than two years.
According to them,price increases are the main economic problem in the country.
Ilona, Country Manager, Harvest Plus Nigeria, called for intervention to tame inflation.
Others steps, he mentioned, include price controls, especially on staple food items, such as rice and garri.
Oladunni, Acting Executive Director, Agricultural and Rural Management Institute (ARMTI), Ilorin, Kwara State, noted that increased demand for food items was pushing up prices.
He stressed the need to encourage more Nigerians to invest in agriculture to contain inflation.
According to him, the whole issue of food price management is essentially a question of ensuring adequate supplies and removing bottlenecks in distribution.
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