Minister dispels concerns over alleged imminent food shortage

Rice farm submerged

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammed Abubakar, has dismissed concerns that Nigerians will experience food shortage in the coming months.

Abubakar said this yesterday while responding to questions from lawmakers during the budget defence session of the Ministry before the National Assembly.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the budget defence was jointly organised by the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Agriculture.

Some of the lawmakers in their separate submissions had decried the effects of flooding in the country, especially on farming, noting that projections have been made that Africa might experience food shortage given the stoppage of grain imports occasioned by the Russia- Ukraine war.

But Abubakar said: “The main concern about food scarcity in the coming months; we will not allow that to happen, I can guarantee you by the Grace of God, because we have measures in place.

“One of the measures is dry season farming, which we have in place and the money, we are working with the Ministry of Finance, we have gotten money from financing agencies, one of them is AfDB, and we will intensify dry season farming.”

He said flooding is a natural phenomenon that cannot be stopped, adding that it can in some situations be used to benefit agricultural production.

He said the Ministry is already assessing the flood situation to determine the extent of damage done to farmlands and crops like, rice, maize and the number of farmers affected.

He said the immediate intervention is that the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management is distributing grains provided by the ministry, which also has programmes lined up to address the issues of flooding of farm produce.

One of the measures is dry season farming, which we have in place; and the money, we are working with the Ministry of Finance, we have gotten money from financing agencies, one of them is AfDB, and we will intensify dry season farming.

Support for farmers

On support for farmers for increased crop production, the Abubakar said the Ministry distributes inputs every year in every geo-political zone, adding that records of the distribution including farm implements to farmers are available.

“We have an insurance scheme for farmers who are flood victims. For those under insurance coverage, we process and pay them; and for those who don’t have, we do intervention from the government from time to time,” he said.

He said in line with the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari for the provision of a master plan to mitigate flooding, the Agriculture Ministry is collaborating with the Ministries of Water Resources and Environment.

According to him, the ministry has gone far in executing its 2022 budget, adding that several agricultural projects and programmes have been awarded for implementation.

“We are improving production of agricultural products in areas where security is okay to make up for areas that are challenged security-wise, and security agencies are helping to provide some measures of security.

“We have big projects for tractorisation and it is on-going, we have countries where companies have already pledged to invest in agro processing zones, for example, Kuwaiti firms have already committed $100 million,” he said.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Abdullahi Yahaya, charged the Ministry to ensure that its budget is specific and focused on programmes to be executed.

He also stressed the need to ensure that preparation of budget entailed collaboration with representatives of the people so as to benefit them.

He said it was appalling that a country of over 200 million people would have a low budget on agriculture, saying it is nothing to write home about given the importance of agriculture.

Abdullahi, however, said the Federal Government in the last four years had done creditably well in the release of budget funds for the execution of projects in the agriculture sector and other MDAs, which have got up to 70 to 80% of their capital releases.

This, he said, was made possible via the consistent efforts of the National Assembly on the budget processes and approvals. (NAN)

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