To stem rising food prices and ensure sustainable food security in the country, President Bola Tinubu has ordered immediate action. This was revealed at a briefing on Thursday in Abuja by Mr Dele Alake, Presidential Adviser on Special Duties, Communications and Strategy. The interventions, according to the President, were meant to have immediate impact on the most vulnerable Nigerians.
In the words of Alake, “As a hands-on-leader who follows developments across the country everyday, Mr. President is not unmindful of the rising cost of food and how it affects the citizens. While availability is not a problem, affordability has been a major issue to many Nigerians in all parts of the country.
“This has led to a significant drop in demand thereby undermining the viability of the entire agriculture and food value chain.”
To contain this trend, the President, as reported by NAN, announced the declaration of a state of emergency on food security, and other measures.
He said all matters pertaining to food and water availability and affordability, now fell within the purview of the National Security Council.
The president said other initiatives would be deployed in the coming weeks to reverse the inflationary trend and guarantee future uninterrupted supplies of affordable foods to ordinary Nigerians.
“As with most emergencies, there are immediate, medium- and long-term interventions and solutions.
“In the immediate term, we intend to deploy some savings from the fuel subsidy removal into the agricultural sector focusing on revamping the agricultural sector.”
He said that a Memorandum of Partnership between the government and agricultural stakeholders had been drafted, containing decisions taken and proposed actions.
“We will immediately release fertilizers and grains to farmers and households to mitigate the effects of the subsidy removal.
“There must be an urgent synergy between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Water Resources to ensure adequate irrigation of farmlands and to guarantee that food is produced all-year round.”
He said that the country could no longer rely on seasonal farming for affordable food items.
“We shall create and support a National Commodity Board that will review and continuously assess food prices as well as maintain a strategic food reserve that will be used as a price stabilisation mechanism for critical grains and other food items.
“Through this board, government will moderate spikes and dips in food prices.”
The president added that to achieve these objectives stakeholders had been drafted to support the interventions.
The stakeholders include National Commodity Exchange, Seed Companies, National Seed Council and Research institutes and NIRSAL Microfinance Bank.
Others are, Food Processing/ Agric Processing associations, private sector holders and Prime Anchors, smallholder farmers, crop associations and fertilizer producers, blenders and suppliers associations.
“In furtherance of this, the federal government would engage security architecture to protect the farms and the farmers so that farmers can return to the farmlands without fear of attacks.
“The Central Bank will continue to play a major role of funding the agricultural value chain.”
Tinubu said that the government would activate its land banks to enable more Nigerians return to farming.
“There is currently 500,000 hectares of already mapped land that will be used to increase availability of arable land for farming which will immediately impact food output.”
He added that the “government will also collaborate with mechanization companies to clear more forests and make them available for farming
“There are currently 11 rivers basins that will ensure planting of crops during the dry season with irrigation schemes that will guarantee continuous farming production all year round, to stem the seasonal glut and scarcity that we usually experience.
“We will deploy concessionary capital/funding to the sector especially towards fertilizer, processing, mechanization, seeds, chemicals, equipment, feed, labour, etc.
“The concessionary funds will ensure food is always available and affordable thereby having a direct impact on Nigeria’s Human Capital Index (HCI).
“This administration is focused on ensuring the HCI numbers, which currently ranks as the 3rd lowest in the world, are improved for increased productivity.”
The president further said that the government would explore other means of transportation including rail and water transport, to reduce freight cost, thereby impacting food prices.
“The cost of transporting agricultural products has been a major challenge due to permits, toll gates, and other associated costs.
“When the costs of moving farm produce is significantly impacted, it will immediately be passed to the consumers, which will affect the price of food.”
He added that existing warehouses and tanks would be revamped to cut waste and ensure efficient preservation of food items.
Tinubu also pledged to increase revenue from food and agricultural exports.
“As we ensure there is sufficient, affordable food for the populace, we will concurrently work on stimulating the export capacity of the Agric sector.”
He said to enhance trade facilitation, transportation, storage and export will be improved by working with the Nigeria Customs Service.
According to him, the customs service has assured the government that the bottlenecks being experienced in exporting and importing food items as well as intra-city transportation through tolling will be removed.
The president stressed that the measures would bring about positive outcomes through massive boost in employment and job creation.
“Indeed, agriculture already accounts for about 35.21 per cent of employment in Nigeria (as at 2021), the target is to double this percentage to about 70 per cent in the long term.”
He said that that would be in line with his pledge to create jobs, as the initiative was expected to achieve between five to 10 million more jobs created within the value chain.
The jobs he said would come through working with the current 500,000 hectares of arable land and the several hundreds of thousands more farmlands to be developed in the medium term.
The president therefore called on all Nigerians to partner with the government to ensure the success of the strategic intervention.
“This administration is working assiduously to ensure that Nigerians do not struggle with their essential needs,” he added.
Tinubu assured Nigerians that the administration would not relent in its efforts “until all strategic interventions are deployed efficiently and effectively and until every household is positively impacted.”
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