Against the backdrop of the projection that it will become the third largest country in the world by 2050, Nigeria has been told to improve its capacity to feed its people on a sustainable basis.
The Director-General of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Vincent Isegbe, gave the advice in Abuja on Wednesday.
He spoke at the launch of activities leading to the International Year of Plant Health 2020.
The United Nations (UN) declared 2020 the "International Year of Plant Health" (IYPH) in order to increase awareness of the importance of plant health.
NAQS as a regulatory organisation helps to prevent entry and spread of exotic pests of all agricultural products associated with international trade.
It also ensures that Nigerian agricultural produce conforms to the international standards for export in line with the requirements of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC).
"The global population is projected to reach nine billion by the year 2050. Plant health is the key to meeting the tremendous challenge of feeding that large population," Mr Isegbe said.
He said Nigeria which is projected to be the third largest country in the world by 2050, has to improve its capacity to feed its people on a sustainable basis.
"We cannot afford to leave plant health in the back burner, we need to rethink our scant regard for plant health and make it a priority," Mr Isegbe said.
He said an investment plan on plant health will enable Nigeria combat hunger, malnutrition and poverty.
Mr Isegbe said the prospect of multiple pest outbreaks is capable of altering the very stability of plant health.
"We have established Plant Health Clinics in all the six geopolitical of the country," he said.
He said the clinics are functional and helping farmers to identify pests and prescribe potent remedies. "The treatments are analogous to the services rendered by human hospitals.
Mr Isegbe said the United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution to proclaim 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health on December 20, 2018.
"Nigeria voted in support of the UN resolution to recognise and protect plant health. This is a token of the commitment of the government to promote plant health policy at all levels in Nigeria," he said.
"Plant health is on the top of global agenda because it is a critical subject which impacts all aspects of food security," Mr Isegbe said.
"December 6, 2021 will be declared for the observance of International Year of Plant," he also said.
Presenting the International Year of Plant Health 2020, an official of the agency, John Abah, said the international community has the objective to sustain plants.
He said the NAQS is recognised by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations to organise activities that support Plant Health policies at all levels in Nigeria.
"Plants pests and diseases damage crops, reduce the availability of food and increase food prices."
The highlights of the event include goodwill messages from partners and stakeholders, questions and answers and meeting of the National Steering Committee of IYPH.