By Hawa Lawal
Abuja, Feb. 20, 2019 Some stakeholders in the agriculture sector have called on the Federal Government to mop up surplus grains from the farmers and shore up its Strategic Grain Reserves.
The stakeholders made the call on Wednesday in separate interviews with News Agency of Nigeria .
They said that the mop up exercise would further discourage hoarding by middlemen given to creating artificial scarcity and hiking prices of commodities at critical times.
According to them, the exercise has become imperative for the government to ensure the various schemes put in place to increase food production and there was sabotaging by greedy middlemen.
Mr Akpan Onallo, the Director-General, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) said that the government grains silos were empty, while politicians and businessmen were serving as off takers to mop up farm produce for selfish reasons.
He expressed concern that government had given out almost 90 per cent of the silos to the private individuals for as long as 10 years even though the exercise would attract more than N6 billion from the concession of 20 silos.
The director-general said that the capacity of the silos in individuals’ hands could contain as much as 100,000 tonnes of grains which could go a long way to enhanced the nation’s policy on food security.
He said that government had stopped buying grains from farmers for use during emergencies, saying what was often sent to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp for their welfare was just from 10 silos retained by government.
Onallo said that in view of the nation’s population, food security ought to be first priority and strategic grains reserves needed to be a priority of government.
“A total of 33 silos exist with a capacity of 1,360,000 metric tonnes of grains, and they are spread almost evenly through the geo-political zones of the country but 90 per cent of them have been concessioned.
“Anywhere in the world, there is always call for sufficient food in the data bank but with the concession where is our food security, rather it is making private produce buyers richer,’’ he said.
He said that in a situation where government concession almost 90 per cent of its silos for grains reserve into private hands, “is not proper considering the ever rising population of the country’’.
“When you start privatising silos, it is like privatising food security. Everybody can be poor but let everybody not be hungry,’’ he said.
Onallo said that adequate grains reserve was one of the steps to combat the UNICEF fact-sheet on nutrition, “as it is estimated that in Nigeria, malnutrition contributes to more than 50 per cent to infant mortality, especially those children under-five years.’’
“Fact-sheet added that apart from poor feeding practices and shortfalls in food intake, micro nutrient deficiency is a direct cause of child morbidity and mortality, while absence in the diet causes serious disorders. How do we combat this without adequate food grains in storage?.
PAN director-general said that government should reconsider its plan on the concession of the silos.
Alhaji Sadiq Deware, the National President, North-East Commodity Association (NECAS) said The National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said government should start mopping up grains produced by the farmers.
Deware said that in the past, Nigeria was classified as one of the food deficit countries because of high food importation and fall short by 60 per cent of the recommended standard by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
He said that government had made some efforts to increase food production and ensured food security with the introduction of the World Bank/Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) farmers were back to the field and producing more grains.
Deware said that for those efforts not to be in vain, Nigeria should endeavour to retain some of its silos across the country, adding that investigation showed that the country was falling short by 65 per cent of the recommended standard.
He emphasised that the FAO recommends that every country should have reserves of 20 kilogramme per person for three months at any point in time, saying what was available in the grains reserve was too little.
Deware said that for the country to be self-sufficient to ensure food security and keep the silos running to cushion the efforts of the farmers, government must buy the grains off them.
He said the ABP had stabilised the rising grain prices, stressing the need for government to shore up its Strategic Grain Reserves.
Edited by Shittu Obassa/Grace Yussuf