The Federal Government has been accused of keeping mute overcompensation to smallholder farmers who suffered losses due to the effect of the ravaging coronavirus pandemic in the country.
The Country Director of Oxfam Nigeria, Dr. Constant Tchona, who disclosed this during a webinar meeting with officials of Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Oxfam partners and farmers from around the country, lamented that farming communities had been complaining bitterly that they were yet to receive any palliatives from the government.
“We want to appreciate the government’s efforts so far for alleviating citizens’ pain following the pandemic. Ever since the first COVID-19 case occurred in March 2020, the Federal Government responded with an Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill signed into law.
“The Central Bank also unveiled its plans to inject N3.5tr to support the economy through a stimulus package meant to give tax relief to corporate bodies who keep the job of their employees intact during a window period of January to December; put a moratorium on mortgage plans enjoyed by Nigerians; and suspend import duties on medical equipment, medicines, and personal protective gear; reduce interest rates from nine per cent to five per cent on its existing intervention programmes over the next one year; plan to create an N50b targeted fund from which households can access a maximum of N3m and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can access a maximum of N25m, and introduce credit support for the healthcare sector,” he said.
He noted that while it has been observed that the palliatives and recovery windows may well work for the manufacturing and other sectors, stakeholders are concerned that the palliatives do not adequately cover the needs of the sector, let alone meeting the nation’s needs of smallholder farmers who presently face the challenge of feeding the nation during the lockdown and immediately afterwards.
“Indeed, farmers around the country have reported having numerous challenges with regards to access to markets to sell and make money. Farmers have also complained about the high levels of post-harvest losses as a result of these access issues.”
Tchona noted that for the rainy season farming, farmers have also reported challenges accessing inputs. “Most recently, the Federal Government guidelines seek the free movement of agricultural produce to curtail food shortages and ensure effective 2020 crop production.
“With the easing of movement, we now have to contend with ensuring that the pandemic does not cause food security challenges for Nigeria down the line, even when things go back to normal.
“I believe that this conversation will be as useful for the farmers as it is for the government because the government will also hear from citizens on where they think immediate attention needs to be given to alleviate their challenges,” he stated.