New Telegraph

Cash crunch, climate change drag agric sector’s performance

Specifically, the naira scarcity, Russia’s war in Ukraine, climate disaster, and other factors pushed food prices to the roof during the period under review. Taiwo Hassan reports

It’s so shocking that at the twilight of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the country’s agric sector that was once the toast of the administration’s top priority has been relegated to the bottom and allowed to face challenges. Consequently, these challenges have resulted to skyrocketing food prices nationwide. In particular, of late, the country’s agricultural sector has been besieged with challenges, making the country’s food inflation rate rise. However, to make matters worse, the recent cash crunch fueled by the resigned naira by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has also caused further crisis for agric stakeholders.

NIHORT warns

One of the major events that took place in Q1’23, was the National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) warning of the danger in using carbide to ripen bananas and other fruits, saying it had negative health implications The General Manager of NIHORT, Dr. Joel Akinfisoye, gave the warning during a four-day women and youth empowerment programme on horticulture, plantain and banana establishment and telfairia production, in Lafia, Nasarawa State. Akinfisoye stressed the danger in using carbide to ripen fruits for human consumption, saying “there are simple ways banana ripens easily. Allow the banana to mature from the tree and then tie it in an enclosure that prevents air entry and within a short time, it will ripen naturally.”

NCAM’s technologies

Also in the quarter, in a bid to enhance productivity, the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation (NCAM) urged smallholder farmers to embraced new technologies at the disposal of the centre. The Acting Executive Director of the centre, Dr AbdulGafar Rasheed- Kamal, made the call while briefing journalists in Abuja. He said that the centre had in fact commenced the production of tractors and other farm implements for smallholder farmers. “Over 80 per cent of food produced in Nigeria, including those for export, are produced by small holder farmers who lack modern implements to attain food sufficiency, therefore the development would also help achieve national food security,” he stated. Rasheed-Kamal noted that the NCAM had commenced the production of several farm implements to aid farm produce in line with the mandate of the federal government, through the centre.

Oxfam on profiteering

In the quarter under review, Oxfam, an organisation fighting poverty, disclosed at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual conference that food firms making large profits as inflation has risen should be subjected to windfall taxes to help reduce global inequality. Ideally, that was one of the concepts presented in a report by Oxfam International, an organisation that has worked for 10 years to bring inequality to the attention of the political and commercial elites who gathered in the Swiss ski town of Davos. According to Oxfam, the world’s super- rich one per cent has amassed almost twice as much wealth in the last two years as the remaining 99 per cent put together.

North East SHFs

insurance claims Another major event that happened in the period was the insurance claims payout for smallholder farmers in the North East where farmlands and products were destroyed by flooding in 2022. Specifically, they were rewarded with N6.9 million insurance claims. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) disclosed that about 245,361 persons in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Gombe states were affected by the flooding, and a total 27,339 hectares of farmland was also destroyed. The Chief of Party, Feed the Future Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity, Margarita Aswani, said the claims payoutwas a measure to “supplement the low yields recorded by farmers in the wet season, due to the flooding that led to the massive destruction of farmlands in the North East.”

Cash crunch

Another major event was the alarm raised by Poultry Farmers Association of Nigeria (PAN) that its members had lost more than N30 billion worth of eggs due to the effect of naira scarcity in the country. The PAN National President, Sunday Onallo-Akpa, disclosed this via a statement issued in Abuja on the protracted challenges facing the poultry sector since the naira by the Federal Government. According to him, “poultry farmers in the country have lost over 15 million crates of eggs being unsold and are damaged, The average loss to the poultry industry as of this press release is in excess of over N30 billion.” Onallo-Akpa described the poultry industry in Nigeria as one of the most consolidated sub-sectors of Nigeria’s agriculture, contributing about 25 per cent of the Agricultural Gross Domestic Product (AGDP) and employing over 25 million Nigerians. Onallo-Akpa, however, alerted that the poultry industry was on the verge of total collapse and extermination because of the negative and devastating consequences of the new currency policy on the industry.

Grains delivery

Moreover, in Q1’23, Ukraine, the Eastern European country, expressed its commitment to delivering about 25,000 tons of grains to Nigeria, despite Russia’s full-scale invasion. Ukraine’s Minister of Agrarian Policy, Mykola Solskyi, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, and Minister of Agriculture, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria, Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, signed the relevant agreement during a Ukrainian delegation’s visit to Africa. Grain from Ukraine is a food initiative of Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, aimed at providing food to countries that are on the brink of famine, as well as Ukrainian farmers and the economy of Ukraine as a whole. According to the ministry, deliveries will be made despite Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Earlier on December 27, the Ministry of Agrarian Policy announced a tender for the purchase of 59,000 tons of wheat of a quality no lower than the third class, which will be delivered to African and Asian countries as part of the Grain from Ukraine initiative. The Cabinet of Ministers decided to increase humanitarian aid to African and Asian countries by an additional 21,000 tons of corn or wheat grain, thanks to which Sudan, Yemen, Kenya, and Nigeria will receive up to 210,000 tons of grain from Ukraine.

Global food prices

The quarter also revealed that gobal prices for food commodities were on the highest levels in 2022 after falling for nine months in a row. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) attributed this to Russia’s war in Ukraine, droughts, and other factors, which drove up inflation and worsened hunger worldwide. The FAO Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of commonly traded food commodities, dipped by 1.9 per cent in December from a month earlier, the Rome-based organisation said in its latest report. For the whole year, it averaged 143.7 points, more than 14 per cent above the 2021 average, which also saw large increases. World prices of wheat and maize reached record highs over the year. The average value of the FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index for all of 2022 reached a new record high, while the FAO Dairy Price Index and Meat Price Index marked their highest full-year levels since 1990. The FAO Food Price Index averaged 132.4 points in December, 1.0 per cent below its value a year earlier. However, for 2022 as a whole, the index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of commonly-traded food commodities, averaged 143.7 points, 14.3 per cent higher than the average value over 2021. Speaking on this, FAO Chief Economist, Mr Maximo Torero, noted that the December number showed that calmer food commodity prices were welcome after two volatile years.

LDCs food security

In March, being the last month of Q1, global leaders and international agric experts agreed that the time had come to weighing the main challenges facing the world’s most vulnerable countries– Least Developed Countries (LDC5)– in the areas of promoting agricultural investment and using modern technologies to achieve food security. At the Fifth United Nations (UN) Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDC5), government leaders and experts called for the LDCs to be supported through, among others, promoting agricultural investment and using modern technologies to achieve food security. Among the many challenges they face, the world’s least developed countries remain hotspots of chronic and acute food insecurity, with an average prevalence of chronic undernourishment of 22.1 per cent, and in some countries, reaching more than 50 per cent. Despite some progress since 2020, the overall situation has worsened over the past decade due to conflict and climate shocks, as well as economic and demographic pressures. During a panel discussion at LDC5, the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda called for support for LDCs in agricultural and rural development. Duda argued that the LDCs should be helped with implementing various solutions to modernise their domestic agrifood sectors, including artificial intelligence tools, navigation systems, satellite images and digital platforms for farmers. Speaking on climate smart agriculture, Minister of Environment Climate Change and Natural Resources in Gambia, Rohey John Manjang, stated that like many LDCs, The Gambia was mostly an agrarian country, with a large proportion of the population relying on subsistence farming. According to her, the effects of climate change, such as higher temperatures and changing rain patterns, are affecting the productivity of the country’s crops, leading to lower yields and reduced incomes for the farmers.

Last line

During the period under review, the performance of the country’s agric sector was nothing to write home about as food inflation, cash scarcity, others heralded the quarter.

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