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‘Nigeria, 26 others head for food crises’

A new analysis by the United Nation’s (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) have identified Nigeria and 26 other countries across the globe as front liners of an impending food crisis, driven by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The joint analysis warned that the “hotspot countries” are at high risk and in some cases are already seeing significant food security deteriorations, noting that in the coming months, there would be rising numbers of people pushed into acute hunger.

According to the report, no world region is immune, from Afghanistan and Bangladesh in Asia, to Haiti, Venezuela, and Central America, to Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Syria in the Middle East, to Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Liberia Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe in Africa.

Speaking on the report, Director-General, FAO, Qu Dongyu, said this could be the worst food crisis in generations, as these countries were already grappling with high levels of food insecurity, and acute hunger even before COVID-19.

According to him, the impact of the pandemic aggravated pre-existing drivers of hunger such as economic crises, instability, insecurity, climate extremes, plant pests, and animal diseases.

He said the advent of COVID-19 brought the countries to the frontline, as they have begun to witness disruptive effects on food systems, which are fuelling a hunger crisis.

In a bid to counter these trends, FAO, during the weekend, released a revised appeal for $428.5 million under the UN’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) for COVID-19, which addresses the mounting needs in the food and agriculture sector, focusing on urgent livelihoods assistance, maintaining food chains and ensuring the most vulnerable people could access and produce vital nutritious food.

According to FAO, to respond to the challenges, there is need to scale-up plans for critical agricultural seasons, food harvesting, processing and storage, and ensure peaceful movements of livestock for pasture and water, as it would be disastrous to put these activities on hold.

Meanwhile, Group Executive Director, CPL Group, Dapo Awofisayo, said the negative effects of Covid-19 on the agricultural sector is not peculiar to Nigeria, and that the sector was only impacted slightly by the various lockdowns in the different parts of the country.

He said the economic and social disruption of the lockdown was felt most between April and May, noting that most farmers’ plants during the rainy season, especially from June to August, and so planting is not really affected.

He said: “If the lockdown was to affect anything, it would have been land preparation, but most of the large farms are in the hinterlands and the necessary labour are locals. So, even land preparation was not affected.

“From the perspective of the oil palm industry, even the sales of processed products were not hindered as food and its producers were under essential goods that were exempted from the lockdown. So, going by real time experience, I do not believe there is an impending food crisis in Nigeria.”

However, Awofisayo said there was need for the government to expand the success of current programmes and widen access to credit for farmers to ensure increased capacity and achieve actual growth in food production.

He called for increased access to credit, noting that it was very vital in attracting more players in the industry and deepening investments in the sector.

“The ministry of agriculture should expand its current programmes and successes and CBN, which has been a champion of agriculture, especially oil palm, should encourage banks to lend more to the sector,” he added.

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