Okwe Obi, Abuja
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, has said the Federal Government would ensure the free passage of agricultural produce to different parts of the country to mitigate the economic hardship triggered by the lockdown imposed by President Mohammadu Buhari as part of containment measures against the spread of COVID-19.
President Buhari had ordered a total lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States, respectively, to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, a global pandemic that has infected over 2.4 million people around the world and has resulted in more than 166,000 deaths (Nigeria recording 21).
Minister Nanono, who addressed reporters in Abuja, noted that the decision became expedient because the restrictions on the movement of people and goods has negatively impacted food processors, traders, trucking and logistics in the food supply chain, resulting in the loss of income and jobs, a reduction in people’s ability to buy food and to compensate farmers for their produce.
He said his ministry is liaising with relevant government authorities to ensure appropriate food policy responses.
“We are working with government agencies in ensuring that transportation of food and agricultural inputs are unhindered by the restriction of movements to ensure that supply chains are kept open and functional.
“We are incorporating Food Safety Management System (FSMS) to eliminate or reduce the risk of food surfaces and food packaging materials becoming contaminated, and supporting the most vulnerable population by releasing assorted food through safety net interventions to complement food distributions in specific areas,” he said.
The minister stressed that he has developed immediate, short and medium-term plans to mitigate the wrath of COVID-19 on the agricultural value chain and to help in generating momentum for a post-COVID-19 recovery plan of government, with agriculture providing the main thrust for achieving growth, diversification and massive job creation.
“Mr President has set up a mechanism for ensuring uninterrupted farming season across the country and revamping the economy through post-COVID sustainable initiative,” he explained.