As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 keeps increasing, it is pertinent to also know that food production is also threatened.
Though both local and international agriculture organisations had urged the government not to include farmers as part of those affected by the lockdown, it is also important to understand that the lockdown would affect everyone at the long-run if the disease is not contained.
Nigeria’s largest consumed staple food is rice, about 7 million metric tons of rice is consumed annually while our production capacity is yet to satisfy our local consumption.
Though Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) had assured that rice would continue to be available in this lockdown period, it is also important to note that if the lockdown lingers and the disease is not controlled, rice production would be affected greatly as farmers and actors on the value chain may also be infected with the disease.
Apart from rice, there are other food production that shouldn’t be neglected.
With the production setback suffered during the outbreak of COVID-19, it is pertinent to note that food production in Nigeria needs support from both the state and federal government.
The support would go along way in affecting all the actors of different value chains, including farmers, input suppliers, processors and service providers.
There are notable processors in Nigeria who are into large scale production, these processors needs government support and assistance because the produce food in this lockdown period and also creating jobs.
For instance, Wal-Wanne and Sons Limited is into large scale rice production in Borno State where he has mobilized over 18,000 farmers in rice production.
The rice company successfully unveiled a 33,000 rice pyramid in Borno State following the intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through the Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP).
Wal-Wanne and sons limited is an example of rice and other food production companies who need assistance from the government in order to sustain production at this critical period.
Sitting on a state ravaged by Boko Haram, mobilising over 18,000 farmers, coupled with the outbreak of COVID-19, it became necessary that the company needs government support to sustain production.
If food production is distorted at this period, then the future of post COVID-19 era is just bleak because there may be shortfall in food availability.
Recall that the President of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Dr Agnes Kalibata had cautioned that the outbreak of COVID-19 shouldn’t lead to food crisis in Africa.
Speaking on the lockdown directive, Dr Kalibata said “this is clearly an important protective step, but we also need to consider the very real danger that the COVID-19 pandemic will leave in its wake, a food security crisis that could affect the political, social and economic health of African countries. Already over 250 million people in Africa are without food. These vulnerable populations will suffer more from both the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic”.
She said as governments are making efforts to slow the spread of the disease, there was need to make efforts to ensure people have food, else, food crisis is imminent.
“As health workers battle to slow down the spread of the disease, all measures must be taken to ensure that people have food now, in the recovery period and beyond. If this is not done, COVID-19 will result in a food crisis that will affect poor people the most, in both rural and urban areas. It is obvious that we can protect the interests and well-being of the most vulnerable among us by ensuring farmers continue to do their work”, she said.
The above statement underscores the importance of government supporting food production also as part of palliative measures to ease the pains of lockdown both for immediate gains and future benefits.