Food security is the backbone of the economy. As long as there is food security, the economy has a chance to grow. In Nigeria however, hunger is an issue for many. As a result, constant conflicts arise. Many people in Northern Nigeria are hungry because of limited staple food, poor labor opportunities, and high food prices.
The advent of oil and gas in Nigeria brought about a massive decline of the country’s agricultural sector. Agriculture was once the primary source of government revenue and foreign exchange earnings. The sector has now suffered from decades of underinvestment, policy neglect, corruption, and lost opportunity. Despite its huge potential for agriculture, Nigeria has become a huge importer of food. Most people engage in agriculture but only do so at a subsistence level.
To give a holistic understanding on the problem of food security in Nigeria, Change Magazine interviewed Dr. Noah Oyelade, a business development consultant for Tmyt Agrovet, an agricultural enterprise in Nigeria that produces milk, vegetable oil, and animal feeds.
Dr. Noah Oyelade, Business Development Consultant
Tmyt Agrovet Nigeria
Change Mag: How sufficient is the country’s food production for the Nigerian populace?
Oyelade: Not sufficient at all! Affordability is a big challenge.
Change Mag: What are the challenges facing the supply and distribution of food in the country today?
Oyelade: Transportation is a major problem, high tax rates, poor storage facilities, and high import duties.
Change Mag: What insights can you give that can help Nigeria become a better exporter of food?
Oyelade: There should be flexibility on policies on agricultural tools and equipment for food processors. Also, cost of duties should be minimal for any inputs needed in the value chain. The government must step in absolutely. Major exporters have been met with the challenge of the recipient country rejecting products because the Nigerian government refused to play their role. Also, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) hasn’t been doing genuine work for the standardization of products to be world standard.
Change Mag: What policies can be put in place by the government to encourage agriculture?
Oyelade: There are enough policies in place. They should be activated or better implemented without favoritism.
Change Mag: What lessons can Nigeria learn from other countries that have higher levels of food security?
Oyelade: Provision of finance for grassroots farmers and regulating price of commodities (MRP-maximum retailing price). Most importantly, market should be created and regulated.
Change Mag: What is the way forward for food security in Nigeria?
Oyelade: Provision of low interest loan (2-5%). The government should be involved in buying back produce from farmers, improve on agricultural technology. Government should mediate in export challenges. Also, there should be better road accessibility and network.
Change Mag: What can be done to control the rising price of food in the market?
Oyelade: There should be a maximum retailing price. The government must be involved in the value chain to have control over price. Once you fund an agricultural project, you also create the market for the farmer. You can then easily influence the price.
Change Mag: What are your observations about the present government’s input in agriculture and food security as a whole?
Oyelade: Fairer than before, the government has been providing fertilizer, while companies import drugs and vaccines by themselves with high tariff.
Achieving food security in Nigeria is pivotal to national development. This is because it serves as boost to other sectors of the economy. The quality of food people eat is a reflection of their lives. Any country that is self-sufficient in food production, and does not depend on other countries for the provision of food has reasons to be proud among the comity of nations.