The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has raised the alarm that 48 countries around the world, including Nigeria, are particularly exposed to food crisis. Nigeria, the body says, is one of the countries in Africa that is in dire need of emergency food assistance to cope with the current food crisis. According to the Managing Director of IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, about 141 million people across the Arab world are also exposed to food insecurity.
As part of its plans to contain the looming food crisis, the global financial institution has approved a new “food shock borrowing window” under its existing emergency financial instruments to help vulnerable countries cope with food shortages and high costs stemming from the ongoing Russia/Ukraine war, which has adversely affected global food supply chain. To all the countries facing acute food crisis, the IMF has promised to assist them through the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocations.
The alarm by IMF must not be dismissed by those in government. Rather, they should map out intervention measures to address the food security challenge. Therefore, it is commendable that the world body has assured these countries of emergency food assistance. However, we advise the affected countries, including Nigeria, to make adequate investments in agriculture and embrace smart ways to increase food production through soilless and all seasons farming. Fortunately for Nigeria, its agricultural potential is not in doubt. What is urgently required now is to use technology to boost our agricultural production. While the assistance from the IMF is encouraging, the government should squarely rise to the challenge.
We have enough arable land, the good weather and the manpower to produce enough food for the citizens and also for export. Nigeria and many other African countries are currently facing acute food crisis due to insurgency in the sub-region and climate- related challenges across the continent.
The move by the IMF comes amid similar intervention by the African Development Bank (AfDB) urging increased financial assistance to curb climate change to reduce food insecurity. President of the Bank, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has called for increased financial support to boost food production and reduce the effects of climate change. Undoubtedly, Nigeria and many African countries are in dire need of emergency food assistance. Across the country, hunger crisis is worsening as floods ravage crops and farmlands, resulting in high cost of food items. In a recent report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme listed Nigeria among five countries in the world as “hot spots” of global hunger – where people are having catastrophic levels of hunger. In April this year, the FAO put the number of Nigerians suffering from acute food shortages at about 90.4 million, while millions of others were being ravaged by malnutrition. Nigeria’s food chain systems were reported to be in disarray as floods from the Cameroun Dam overflowed to Nigeria wrecking havoc in many states.
Also, the Hydrological Service Agency of Nigeria has on several occasions warned that floods would persist till the last quarter of 2022 with torrential rain. The floods had killed hundreds of people and destroyed hectares of farmlands and crop across the country.
Let the government also check the insurgency that has threatened food production in the North East region as well as the farmers/herders clashes in the North Central region and other zones of the country. Beyond this, government should enunciate concrete policies and programmes that will reposition the sector. These include provision of farm inputs, such as fertilizers, improved seedlings and pesticides and other implements to farmers. This will hopefully boost food production and stem the rising prices of food stuff. It is regrettable that previous attempts to bring agriculture back to its enviable position did not succeed. The government has not fully implemented the reforms to resuscitate the sector. Also, farmers are saddled with the problem of high interest rates by commercial banks and this is a major obstacle to mechanised farming.
Currently, banks charge as high as 29 per cent interest on loans. Before now, the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) interest rate on loans was 14 per cent. With the latest increase in the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) by the Central Bank, interest rate could go beyond the reach of commercial farmers. This is bound to affect food security. For Nigeria and many other African countries to overcome the looming food challenge, they must invest so much in mechanised agriculture.