By Williams Anuku, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the level of preparedness of nations to shocks of food security.
The President stressed this on Thursday, when he met with members of the National Food Security Council at the State House, Abuja.
A statement by Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, quoted the President as explaining that the Federal Government’s wisdom in promoting self-sufficiency over the years helped significantly in averting a food crisis.
President Buhari also noted that there was need for more effort to increase food production and self-sufficiency, assuring that the Federal Government will continue to promote policies that favour investments in the agricultural sector.
He said, “The coronavirus pandemic has illustrated more than any event in recent history how countries must strive harder to protect food systems. It has also exposed the limits of dependency on other countries.
“In the last five years we have recorded notable achievements. Despite the decline in GDP by 6.1 per cent in Q2 of 2020 as a direct result of coronavirus, the agricultural sector continued to grow because of government targeted policies.’’
Buhari, who commended Nigerian farmers for contributing to the stability in food security, said the favourable rainy seasons should serve as encouragement for many to take up farming as a vocation.
“I am pleased to note that most Nigerians are taking advantage of the opportunities in the agriculture and agric-business sector. I want to assure you that this government will continue to support these initiatives and many more to come.’’
The President also said efforts will be channeled to innovative ways of farming that will guarantee maximum output .
“To protect agricultural investments and boost confidence to our farmers we have deployed thousands of agro-rangers and integrated rural communities to the formal economy by extending access to credit and inputs to rural farmers and building feeder roads.
“We have invested in building our strategic grain reserves in recent years which we recently released significant quantities to cushion the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to vulnerable households and industries,’’ the President said.
President Buhari sympathized with farmers and families that lost loved ones to recent floods in the country, assuring that the government will support those that were affected.
Meanwhile, Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari said recent surge of national food prices may gradually evolve to a food crisis with the ability to threaten the nation’s food security.
He told stakeholders at the meeting, saying, “yesterday, my office as the secretariat of National Food Security Council, met with the all agricultural commodity association, to ascertain the root causes of the recent spike in food prices and craft mitigating strategies to what could be a potential crisis.
“Although various concerns were raised of the root cause of increase in commodity cost, we have been informed that prices are actually on the decline as new grains have been introduced to the market.
“For example, new maize which was previously sold for N25,000 per bag is now being sold between N12,000 and N17,000 and it’s expected to fall between N7,000 and N8,000 per bad by November 2020, according to the various leaders of agricultural commodity association. The price decline has also been experienced in millet, beans and sorghum. The hike therefore is to be seen as a transient situation.
“With Mr. President being among us, as somebody who knows about farming and agriculture perhaps more than many of us in the room, we believe his presence is very instructive in addressing not just this hike and transient nature and pricing of foodstuff but also to underscore the importance he personally and as Mr. President and his administration attaches to the issue of national food security”.
According to Gambari, it is important to note that the most prevailing concern of the various leaders of the agricultural commodity association, was their demand that there should be better coordination, synergy and cooperation across the sector.
He said this has been largely accounted for the gross misinformation and nationwide speculation which is being experienced.
“Not disregarding the impact of other value triggers such as the cyclical off season period phenomenon, the COVID-19 pandemic and infrastructure challenges, the importance of collaboration can still not be overemphasized.
“As I welcome all participants to this crucial gathering, I urge that we all work hand in hand to ensure the protection of our nation’s food basket. Agriculture is a major priority for this administration and the crucial driver for the development of the nation.
“Therefore, the growth of the sector leaves no room for complacency and there is still a long arduous road to go before achieving those goals. However with determination, coordination and hard work, we have the capacity and will therefore demonstrate the wherewithal to exceed our expectations, “he stated.