15 October 2012

Nigeria: Floods Wash Away Hope On Rice Self-Sufficiency

As floods continue to wreak havoc in several states of Nigeria, destroying farmlands of rice, maize and other crops, there are fears of imminent food security threat.

A report by a group of journalists in Abuja who toured some of the ravaged areas of the country said that concerns on food security were coming at a time the federal government was contemplating the implementation of increased tariffs on rice imports and eventual stopping of same by 2015.

The 2013 budget proposes a 10 per cent duty plus a 100 per cent levy on imported polished rice.

But several voices of concern are emerging from all sectors urging the federal government to reconsider increasing the tariffs to a prohibitive level (100%).

Concerns over food security were raised recently by the minister of environment, Hajiya Hadiza Mailafia, who revealed that thousands of farmlands had been destroyed by the ravaging floods across the country.

She said, "The consequences of the floods are that there are huge losses of farmlands; there are likely threats to food security. We are likely going to have challenges that have to do with the health of the people in some areas."

Also, the federal director of agriculture in Adamawa, Wali Hamman, stated in an interview in Yola recently that there was a real possibility of food crisis in Adamawa State this year.

The director noted that, considering the huge damage to farmlands, there was likely to be a food crisis in the state if immediate action was not taken to address the situation. He said "most of the farmers affected by the disaster are more preoccupied with how to save themselves and their families from the disaster than their farms".

Kano State has equally been badly affected by the floods resulting in disruption of rice production. In a statement by an association of rice growers in the state, it lamented that about 95 per cent of all rice farms had been destroyed by the floods. According to the statement, the worst affected areas included Warawa, Doguwa, Wudil, Gabasawa, Ajingi and Gaya local government areas. These, the statement noted, were the areas that were producing rice in a large scale. The group predicted that the prices of foodstuff, especially rice and maize, would go up this year as a result of the disaster.

In Plateau State, the flood affected eight local government areas, destroying eight bridges and rendering more than 10,000 people homeless, according to Abraham Yiljap, the state's commissioner for information and communication. He told newsmen that more than 100 villages and 4,000 hectares of farmlands were destroyed.

Mr. Yiljap said the LGAs were Kanam, Wase, Shendam, Lantang North, Lantang South, Mikang, and Qu'an Pan, Jos East and Jos North."Unfortunately and tragically, Plateau has been affected by another flood disaster after the one in Jos North," he was quoted to have said. The commissioner said several crops had also been washed away by the disaster. He also said the situation would lead to likely shortage of food supply in the state as the areas ravaged were mainly agricultural areas.

Also Mrs. Sarah Yusuf, the state's commissioner for environment, said the floods had caused the death of scores of people in Jos. Addressing journalists in the state capital on Thursday, Mrs. Yusuf said the warning by her ministry was to prevent more deaths as a result of impending flood.

Meanwhile, the Bayelsa State government has temporarily closed all schools in the state as a result of rising water level all over the state.

Reports from the north-central zone said that, in Kogi State alone, more than 600,000 people have been displaced by the floods.

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