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HomeBusinessFamine Looms As Insecurity, Climate Change Threaten Food Output

Famine Looms As Insecurity, Climate Change Threaten Food Output

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By Babajide Okeowo

World Food Programme (WFP) Chief Executive Officer, David Beasley a few days ago dropped a bombshell that 2021 is literally going to be catastrophic adding that for a dozen countries, famine is “knocking on the door.” As if that is not enough, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), an arm of the United Nations listed Nigeria among 45 countries that would need external assistance for food in 2021, The Matrix’s BABAJIDE OKEOWO in this analysis takes a look at the factors responsible for this grim outlook and reports.

In late November 2020, at least 43 rice farmers were brutally murdered by insurgents in Zabarmari in the Jere local government area of Borno State, in northeast Nigeria.

 

Famine

This is the latest in the series of gruesome attacks on farmers that have resulted in the deaths of at least 800 people in the last decade according to the Global Terrorism Index.

Food growers are assailed on at least four fronts as insurgency, communal clashes, banditry, and farmer-herder conflicts in the north-central region of Nigeria continue unabated and are now spreading to neighboring states. The situation is fast becoming a critical challenge.

The attacks are taking place in areas that are located in major food-producing areas of the country. Sokoto is a major producer of beans, cowpea, groundnut, garlic, wheat, sugarcane, pepper, onions, and tomatoes. Groundnut, sorghum, sesame seed, maize, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and pepper are produced extensively in Plateau state. Likewise, Gombe is well known for groundnut, ginger, cowpea, sesame seed, tomatoes, and pepper. Plantain, oil palm, and cassava are largely produced in Edo State. Also, Kano has extensive production of rice, garlic, sorghum, cowpea, wheat, pepper, onions, and tomatoes.

In grain-producing states like Zamfara, Katsina, and Kaduna, armed bandits extort so-called harvest fees from farmers before allowing them to reap their crops. Similar demands are made on farmers in the states of Katsina and Kaduna, where they face being kidnapped if they fail to pay the ransoms that average about N1 million naira in cash or 40% of their produce.

How Insecurity is depleting Nigeria’s Food Stock

The surge in attacks on Nigerian farmers is having a knock-on effect on the West African nation’s food reserves.

The President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Kabir Ibrahim in an earlier interview declared that due to the frequency and nature of the attacks, food stocks have declined to less than 30,000 metric tons, a fraction of what the country of 200 million people requires, and the growing insecurity is making it difficult to augment those supplies.

“This worrying trend poses food security risks to millions of Nigerians. It is now exceedingly difficult to get the farmers to readily go to their farms in several parts of the country” he said.

Similarly, Alhaji Nuhu Dansadau, a farmer in Zamfara narrated his bitter experience with bandits.

“There are even places where they take over the farm. For instance, if you have produced 200 bags of corn, they will instruct you to go and sell 30 or 50 bags and bring the money to them” he disclosed.

Food Prices shoot through the roof

These constant attacks and the attendant factor are fueling food inflation. Costs started increasing in 2019 when the government shut its borders to curb the smuggling of rice and other products. Food prices rose 17.4% in October from a year earlier, the biggest increase in three years.

“The continued increase in food and core inflation was attributed to the persistence of insecurity across the country,” the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Monetary Policy Committee said on November 24, 2020

A survey carried out by The Matrix in the nation’s economic capital, Lagos State, showed a significant increase in the prices of food items in major markets across the state.

For example, a 50 kg bag of imported rice at Ile Epo market sells for between N28, 000 to N30, 000, similarly, a 50 Kg of Garri which sold for N13, 000 last year now sells for around N18, 000. A crate of Eggs sells for around N1, 500 as against N1, 000 last year.

A basket of fresh pepper now goes for about N9, 500 against about N6, 000 from last year, a 4 liters gallon of groundnut oil sells for around N4, 000 as against N2, 000 last year. A kilogram of frozen food goes for N1, 800 as against N1, 200 it was sold last year.

Climate Change Contributes to Impending Famine

Aside from the violence which is compounding production challenges and agricultural output, other factors such as climate change and the coronavirus pandemic have placed Nigeria at risk of famine, the United Nations warned last month.

Also, a report from the FAO noted that the presence of La Niña { a climatic condition} heightens the risk of above-average rainfall in Southern Africa and East Asia, while parts of Near East Asia and East Africa are expecting reduced rains, conditions that may result in adverse production shocks.

All these factors will contribute in no small measure to increasing food prices in the coming year.

 

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