By ISHOLA BALOGUN
The recent yet-to-be receded flood in most parts of the county to say the least, is enough sign for impending food shortage in the country.
The flood which ravaged twenty states with farmlands destroyed, couple with the unmitigated crisis of Boko Haram, ethnic killings, unchecked soaring food prices have undoubtedly left Nigerians vulnerable to massive food shortage.
Farmers have been sacked from their villages; their crops have been washed away by flood, while they wait patiently for the next farming season only if they were encouraged to go back to it.
Alhaji Usman Shehu
Inspite of the level of poverty most Nigerians fight on a daily basis to eke out a living with much less than one dollar per day, the situation may grow from bad to worse especially in a country where there is no government’s agriculture effort to serve as a buffer to unexpected food shortage in the system.
Interestingly, our farming population has been on the decline because people are not encouraged, even younger generation is not attracted to agriculture. But however, few hours after the marking the World Food Day, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwunmi Adeshina, gave the assurance that the country will not experience any food shortage next year as a result of the flood ravaging the country.
According to him, plans are in place for a flood insurance policy for all farmers. The Minister also announced plans to setup a flood recovery food programme to accelerate food production across the affected states. Even as many have praised the government for responding to the disaster, many still doubt the government approach, suggesting that government should not only ensure that money meant for the displaced farmers and residents are given to them but also that government as a matter of policy should encourage massive food production in the country to avert the imminent shortage.
One of those who spoke to Saturday Vanguard is the financial secretary of the popular Mile 12 market, Lagos, Alhaji Usman Shehu.
Speaking on behalf of the association of Agric business and traders in the market, Alhaji Shehu said: “Food crisis is imminent in Nigeria as a result of the flooding. It is very obvious, it is not a matter of prophesy but a reality. If you consider the number of states this flood affected and the farmers whose properties and farmlands have been swept away, you will only agree that we are in for a food shortage if urgent steps are not taken immediately.”
Shehu stressed that most of our foods come from the North which is now submerged in flood. He noted that what comes from Odo-Oba, Ilaro, Osun, and other few places in the south are not enough. According to him, “the majority of food items come from the north.
The major occupation of people affected by this flood is farming. Imagine that all what they have done and their harvest have been swept away by the flood.”
He hinted that that the Mile 12 market which used to receive about 100 trailers of various types of food items daily is now getting 20 trailers or little more in the past few days.
This represents about 20 per cent of the usual supply. According to him, “this market supplies not only the country, but other markets in West Africa. People come from far and near to buy tomatoes, pepper, yam and other food items. We are the one financing the farmers and they bring their farm produce here for sale immediately they harvest them in large quantities.
Every trader in the market knows we give farmers money to farm at the beginning of every farming season. We even give out money to farmers outside the market because we believe it will increase food supply.
That is what we do here. When they bring in their goods, we recoup our money. That is why sometimes; you find some food items cheaper here than in other places. We support our members who are farmers from different states.
They bring their harvest here, sell them and pay back our money. It is bigger than what most people think. It supplies other Nigerian markets and other markets in West Africa. People come from Togo, Cotonou, and other countries.”
Alhaji Shehu who is the financial secretary of the association disclosed that the association last year gave out over N3billion to various farmers to farm. “We have farmers all over the federation that supplied food items here.
We gave out huge money for the season, Last year alone, we gave out N3billion and right now, we have lost so much money because majority of our farmers are affected by the flooding. We don’t even know how they will pay back the money; in fact, we can’t even ask them because we know they have lost everything.
Since the incidence, a dime has not come to the purse. It is a huge loss.”
Explaining the areas of supply that were adversely affected, he said: “Tomatoes, pepper, corn, onions, millet are grossly affected. Rice is not really affected because as you know the federal government supported the importation of rice, we consume mostly foreign rice, so, there is no problem on rice supply. For beans, two things happened to the short supply of beans.
One is that the issue of insecurity. Maiduguri is largely, the source of beans supply and the insecurity in that state has impeded supply. It is difficult going into that state to bring beans; rather, people go to Kano, Niger and other states to bring beans. Secondly, is the flooding, other areas that have been supplying beans have been affected by the flood.”
He added that Yam although comes from Benue but it is not seriously affected because it is a root crop. “Except those ones harvested and kept in the barn waiting for supply might have been swept away by the flood, otherwise, we are not likely to experience shortage in the supply of yam.” But for carrot, tatashe, pepper, tomatoes and other vegetables, he said, we might have shortage because they would have been swept away by the flood.
On the steps taken against this development, he noted that the association has written a letter to the Lagos State government soliciting for assistance to nip the impending shortage in the bud. “We have written a letter to the state government for assistance either by giving us a loan or any other support towards reducing the burden and we hope the federal government will also come to our aid. The state government knows us and they know how we operate here and we believe they will assist us so that our farmers can go back to farm immediately the flood receded,” Shehu stated.
The fear now is that would the money meant for the real victims and farmers get to them? Judging from the various attempts by government to offer assistance to the Nigerians, most of the people concerned usually do not have access to these palliative measures.
The SMEs fund is a case in point where several billions of naira was released. How many of these people were able to access this fund. How has government monitored the exercise to ensure those who really needed the money got it? These are the fears of Alhaji Shehu on the issue of fund being mobilised for the victims of flood in the country. He asked sarcastically, will this money get to the real farmers and those who actually lost properties in the flood? Will it not end in the pockets of politicians and their cronies?
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