Farmers and stakeholders in the agricultural sector have warned that the country is in danger of food shortage due to the police intimidation that has frustrated efforts to move farm produce during the lockdown.
President Muhammadu Buhari had imposed a lockdown in some states across the country to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Individuals in the agricultural value chain were exempted from the movement restrictions; categorising them as essential services.
Acknowledging the government’s efforts, stakeholders in the agricultural sector said the palliatives put in place are insufficient.
This was made known in a statement jointly issued by Voices of Food Security (VFS), All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), the Association of Small-Scale Agro-Producers in Nigeria (ASSAPIN), Ogbonge Women Farmers’ Association, Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON) and Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN).
The statement was signed by Bridget Osakwe, protem chair of VSF; and Gbolagade Ayoola, Right to Food Group VFS chairman.
“We observe that these palliative and recovery windows may well work for the manufacturing and other sectors, but we are concerned that they do not adequately cover the needs of agricultural sector stakeholders let alone meet the needs of the nation of smallholder farmers who presently face the challenge of feeding the nation during the lockdown and immediately afterwards,” the statement read.
Expressing regret that farmers associations are not strictly termed as SMEs and will likely not be eligible for SME financing from the CBN, the stakeholders said the “funds are very much needed”.
“This is especially important as we consider the needs of farmers in the rainy season planting period.”
Giving recommendations, they urged that state governments should set up “measures to avoid any form of disturbance to the supply chain while maintaining security and food safety”.
“Federal and state-level ministries, as well as the CBN, should work with farmers and processors throughout the country to use this opportunity to better improve working relationships with farmers.
“Too often, agricultural support does not reach ‘real farmers’ and this reality cannot hold if we are to ensure food security in Nigeria.
“Police and other security checkpoints set up throughout the country should be sensitized on the need to facilitate seamless access to agricultural inputs and produce to the markets.
“Ministries of agriculture at state and federal levels, as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria, should consider facilitating agricultural insurance, especially for small scale farmers in order to forestall losses occasioned by climate change-induced flood, drought, erosion, etc.
“Small household grants should be extended to poor farmers at scale to enable them to stay afloat in this uncertain period, and effort should be made to ensure that these reach real male and female farmers.”
Making a case for transparency, the coalition urged the government to work with civil society in the distribution of all the stimulus funding to be provided.