From Taiwo Oluwadare, Ibadan
Most of the 33 food silos built across the country expected to help maintain price stability and ensure food security are almost empty or now being used for other purposes.
The silos have a total capacity of 1.3 million metric tonnes of grains.
Disclosing this on Wednesday while delivering the first Candida Adenike Afodu Lecture Series in Agriculture/ Horticulture at the Augustine University, Ilara, Epe, Lagos, Prof. Emilolorun Aiyelari, blamed the development on a number of factors such as banditry, poor funding of the sector, land use policy among others.
He spoke on the topic “Agricultural production in Nigeria: No reason for insufficiency.”
Aiyelari noted that the nation’s Strategic Grain Reserve Storage Programme, SGRSP, was underperforming, as the silos had little to store for any rainy day.
“The programme was designed to provide relief in time of national disasters, drought, and war both locally and internationally. It is to provide a ready and accessible market for locally produced items through Buyers of Last Resort, BLR, to maintain price stability and ensure food security.
“Most of the 33 silos across the country with a total capacity of 1.3 metric tonnes of grains are empty or put into other uses. Such is the case of the Ibadan office of the SGRSP silos now on loan to the Flour Mills of Nigeria Limited,” he said.
Aiyelari, a professor of Agriculture Engineering at the University of Ibadan, added that for many years, the silos were just idling away.
Citing the high costs of agricultural machines and equipment as a barrier to food production in Nigeria, he faulted the negligence on the part of those concerned that led to the collapse of agricultural machinery assembly plants in Nigeria.
“In the 1960s and 70s, there were agricultural machinery assembly plants in Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi, Enugu among others. There was the R.T. Briscoe, Massey Ferguson, Steyr, Ford etc with the provision of after-sales training and equipment servicing.
“Three years ago, when the dollar exchanged for N360, a medium sized tractor of 75hp was sold for between $25,000 and $30,000 (N9m – N12m). As at November 20 this year, the same is sold for N18.4m. How much loan is the farmer going to take to buy such machines and how will such a farmer break even?, He asked.
On the negative effects of banditry on agriculture, Aiyelari recalled a publication of 43 communities in Sokoto State where bandits were on the standby to collect levies from farmers or even use them to work for bandits.
“The major import of that,” he said, “such areas have been lost to farming.”
He also blamed the government for not implementing the 2003 Maputo Declaration that African nations should devote at least 10 percent of their annual budgets to agriculture, adding that the highest the nation has ever done was 5.4 percent.
Suggesting the way forward, Aiyelari called for serious military operations in the North at a scale never seen after the civil war to tame banditry and insurgency.
He also advocated better funding for the sector, consistent and well focused policies to make the sector attractive to young ones among others.
In her remarks, a representative of the family of the donor, Mrs Taiwo Oshinowo, thanked the management of the university for helping to keep the memory of their mother alive.
She pledged the support of the family for the institution.
The Vice Chancellor, AUI, Prof. Christopher Odetunde, appreciated the donor for the support and hoped that the relationship between the two sides would last for a long time.