Expressed apprehension about unverified figures arising from the recent flood disaster in some parts of the country, has prompted the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, to assure Nigerians that the country "will not experience food shortage."
Dr. Adesina, speaking in Minna recently where he flagged off the Federal Government's effort to release 4,200 MT of food relief for Niger, Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto states, noted that though the situation of the flood presents a huge challenge on food security in many parts of the country, Nigeria will not have food crisis. "Let me assure you that the Federal Government is taking all measures to mitigate the impacts of the flood. Nigeria will not have famine. We will not have a food crisis. We will recover from the flood," he said.
The Agric Minister based his affirmation on the fact that through the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, a total of 8.1 million metric tonnes of food have been added to the domestic food supply in the last one year.
"From our efforts, this year alone, from maize, rice, cassava, sorghum, we have added a total of 8.1 million MT of food to our domestic food supply. That is 70 percent higher than the target of five million MT we set for 2013; and 41 percent of the total target that we set for 2015.
"If we had not added the 8.1 million MT of food to the domestic food supply, which provided a significant buffer, Nigeria would have seriously felt the impact of the flood. We will continue to work hard," he said.
Speaking further, the Minister remarked that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in partnership with the state governments, have been working very hard for the past one year with the role of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda to raise food production and secure our food supply.
He said within 120 days, the revolutionary Growth Enhancement Support, GES, which cleaned up decades of corruption in the fertilizer sector, succeeded in reaching over 1.2 million farmers with improved seeds and fertilizers, using the electronic wallet system.
Between tales and facts: He said "67,000 MT of maize seed, which was planted on 3.5 million hectares of land, with estimated production of 7 million MT of food has been distributed, while 30 million stem cuttings of cassava have been given out free to farmers.
The Federal Government is distributing over 3.5 million hybrid cocoa pods or a total of 114 million cocoa seedlings free. We are distributing nine million sprouted nuts of oil palm seedlings to revamp our palm oil production. Free cotton seeds have been provided to farmers across the Northern states, to plant 75,000 hectares of cotton this year alone; all done free of charge".
No cause for panic: Adesina urged Nigerians not to panic. "We must avoid those who want to create unnecessary panic. There have been all kinds of figures in the media on the extent of damage by the floods. While we do not dispute that there are economic losses, some of the figures and information being used are not based on real data.
If you believe all the figures being bandied, you would think that all of Nigeria is under water. That is simply not correct. None of these statements is based on any real rigorous data and analysis. Furthermore, those who want to flood our markets with cheap imported food, taking advantage of these panic statements, have started clamouring for waivers for food imports. Nothing is better business than the panic business."
The scienfic approach: He informed that immediately the floods started, the International Water Management Institute - the world's leading centre for water management and issues of flood, was invited by his Ministry to help use sophisticated remote sensing and satellite imagery to determine the extent of the flood; the extent of the inundation and how soon the flood water will recede to carefully plan its post-flood food production strategy. The Institute also used satellite images and vegetation data to measure crop areas under inundation to determine crop loss estimates.
The scientific investigation, even at the peak flood period of October 12-13, which one would expect for maximum crop loss, showed that the total flooded area was 1.4 million hectares. The estimated area for crop loss was 467,000 hectares.
"We must have a sense of proportion. Nigeria's total cultivated area under crops is 40 million hectares of land. That means that the cultivated areas estimated to have experienced crop loss affected was only 1.17 percent of the total cultivated crop area in Nigeria. It is clear that Nigeria's food security will not be compromised by the flood," he noted.