It is laudable that heads of three global bodies, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have jointly enjoined governments the world over to map out measures to ensure that the border restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic do not disrupt the food supply chain. In a joint release by the Directors-General of WTO, FAO, and WHO, Roberto Azevedo, QU Dongyu and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, respectively, they said: “When acting to protect the health and well-being of their citizens, countries should ensure that any trade-related measures do not disrupt the food supply chain.”
They also point out that such disruptions, which include hampering the movement of agricultural and food industry workers and extending border delays for food containers result in the spoilage of perishables and increasing food waste. They also advised: “Now is the time to show solidarity, act responsibly and adhere to our common goal of enhancing food security, food safety and nutrition and improving the general welfare of people around the world. We must ensure that our response to COVID-19 does not unintentionally create unwarranted shortages of essential items and exacerbate hunger and malnutrition.”
We commend the leaders of the three global agencies for their timely advice on how to mitigate the effect of border restrictions on the food supply chain in countries affected by the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic. We also believe that their counsel is germane to measures mapped out to tackle the coronavirus crisis. We enjoin the governments of all countries, especially those in developing countries to ensure that the food supply chain is not disrupted.
The world should not tolerate a situation where many people will be starved to death because of any disruption in the food supply chain. We believe that this is the time for rich countries to reach out to poor countries with food and medical supplies for them to surmount the challenged posed by the spreading COVID-19 pandemic. African leaders should use this opportunity to enhance their healthcare systems and come up with palliatives to cushion the effects of the pandemic. They must ensure that their citizens do not suffer food shortage because of the killer virus.
For us in Nigeria, now is the time for the government to empahsise the development of agriculture. Government should lay emphasis on mechanised agriculture. For this to happen, the budgetary allocation to agriculture must be increased appreciably. This is the time to reactivate measures to ensure food security. Unfortunately, the government has not paid sufficient attention to the issue of food security.
Our total reliance on crude oil has ruined the nation’s agriculture, which used to be the mainstay of the economy before and a little after independence. The time for rhetoric is over. We have paid so much lip service to the development of our agriculture. The federal and state governments are advised to ensure that the nation’s food supply chains are not disrupted because of the prevailing lockdown aimed at checking the spread of coronavirus.
Prior to the advent of the disease in the country, many Nigerians are already living below $1 per day. Any food shortage at this point in time will lead to mass hunger. Therefore, government must ensure that the food supply chain is not impeded. Good enough, President Muhammadu Buhari said much on the need to ensure steady food supply for the period of lockdown in his recent nationwide broadcast on the pandemic. According to him, “all vehicles conveying food and other essential humanitarian items into these locations from other parts of the country will also be screened thoroughly before they are allowed to enter these restricted areas.”
He also assured that “residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods will surely be affected by some of these restrictive measures, we shall deploy relief materials to ease their pains in the coming weeks.” We urge the government to ensure that these promises are duly fulfilled. While the lockdown is a necessity, we urge that the policy should be reviewed as the need arises to suit our environmental peculiarities. Therefore, all hands should be on deck to halt the spread of the deadly virus.