It is a well-known fact that a country that cannot produce enough food internally to feed its citizens will remain eternally dependent on food imports.
Let us take one of two of our staple foods as an example, RICE and WHEAT. Nigeria spends a huge amount of foreign exchange to import Rice and Wheat which is consumed by all. There is no household in Nigeria that does not consume Rice daily. They either cook it at home, eat it in restaurants and many eat bread daily.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, about 3 million tonnes of Rice and 64,000 tonnes of Wheat was produced in Nigeria in year 2014.
Also according to U.N. statistics, in 2012 Nigeria imported 2.3 million tonnes of Rice and 4.1 million tonnes of Wheat. This is nearly double the quantity imported in 2000.
Nigeria is also the world’s second largest importer of Rice and among the biggest buyers of U.S. wheat.
Now what happens in the exporting countries? Their farmers are kept busy and employed.
What happens in Nigeria? Our farmers are producing expensive Rice and Wheat because the imported rice is much cheaper. Over time, Nigerian farmers will abandon their farms and resort to subsistence production. This method of farming does not augur well for a highly populated country that is still growing.
What Policy options should the Federal, State and Local governments implement in order to ensure Nigeria attains self-sufficiency in food production?
Massive mechanisation of production – use improved tools and farm implements. This would bring more land under cultivation with a corresponding increase in production. Large scale commercial agriculture should be encouraged. Farmers should use tractors, harvesters and so many
- There should be a drastic reduction in Post-harvest losses. It has been estimated that post-harvest losses range between 5% and 20% for grains, 20% for fish and as high as 50-60% for tubers, fruits and vegetable. This is highly unacceptable.
The establishment of Cottage industries to process excess perishables, thus reducing post-harvest losses.
- Emphasis should be laid on encouraging production along the agricultural value chain.
- Irrigation agriculture – Nigeria has many river basins where food crops can be produced all year round under irrigation. Irrigation agriculture should be accompanied by cottage industry processing outfits that will process excess food crops and livestock in order to prevent post-harvest losses.
- Crop and animal protection – Adoption of new and improved technology that has been developed by the various crop and animal research stations. Use of fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides should be encouraged.
- Transportation of farm harvest to markets should be done faster using special vehicles, train
- Provide finance at single digit interest rate for farmers.
- Encourage formation of production and processing clusters as well as multi-purpose cooperatives for production, storage, marketing, processing facilities and services. Proper distribution channels must be developed such that local markets and exports is encouraged.
- Provision of warehousing and storage facilities. Cold storage and maintenance of the cold chain is essential for some goods such as processed chicken, fresh fish and all sea foods.
- All the geographical regions should be encouraged to produce food items the regional climate supports. This is akin to comparative advantage production.
- Crop and animal improvement should be encouraged. New varieties of crops and livestock should be introduced to farmers early in the season. Federal, State and Local governments should strengthen their Agricultural extension services so they can reach out to farmers. Demonstration farms should be established in farming communities in order to spread the results of research findings.
- However, the policy can only be actualized if there is electricity. Power drives the economy.