NIGERIA – The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that dangers lie ahead if a country does not begin to depend largely on what is produced locally.
This has resulted in economies to critically think on how to increase its food supply base to meet the growing local demand.
A system where the demand for food does not match the supply, is indirectly signalling a food crisis.
This is the case in Nigeria across most commodities, according to a recent report by commodities exchange firm AFEX.
The 2021 crop production survey report forecasts an increase in production levels across six commodities: maize, sorghum, soybean, paddy rice, ginger, and sesame.
However, higher prices were forecasted across all commodities despite the growth in production levels.
This is attributed to the increased production levels not being sufficient enough to surmount demand pressures across commodity value chains.
For instance, this year AFEX projects 3% increase in maize production; 12% rise in sesame; 10% jump in rice; 8% increase in soybean; 4% rise in ginger; 1% jump in sorghum, while the production of cocoa is projected declined by eight per cent.
In terms of pricing, the licensed commodity exchange operator projects that the price of the country’s main staples such as maize, soybeans and paddy rice are expected to increase by 17%, 29% and 10% by the end of the 2021/2022 season.
“For Nigeria to feed itself and feed Africa, there is a need for serious investment and focus on the agricultural sector, and the subsistence method of farming, which is still largely practiced in Nigeria, will not help to combat hunger and scarcity,” noted the report.
To achieve food security sustainably, AFEX advocates for strategies such as an increase in food production, food processing, and preservation, strategic grain/food reserve, access to market, food price control, matching income with inflation rates, undertake public-private partnership, set up cottage industries, to ensure food security on a long term and sustainable basis.
Also, the commodity trader underlined the importance of data to inform insight-led policies in boosting production levels.
As a result, prioritizing building a food balance sheet will be a good first step, leveraging technology to accurately track the supply and demand of food, collate data on the activities of input providers, urban and rural farmers, importers, aggregators, processors, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, cooks, caterers, food banks, etc.
“We also need to register and monitor our population, understanding where there is an abundance or shortage of food, and who needs it most, which will enable actors to design and implement rapid and effective interventions to meet urgent needs.
“Also, actors in the food ecosystem must collaborate by sharing information across value chains,” noted AFEX.