COVID-19 and food security

Since the outbreak of the virus on December 31, 2019, many activities around the world have taken a different turn, there has been a sharp drop in global crude oil price, turbulence in the stock and financial market, schools and religious gatherings are closed down and many entertainment and economic activities are suspended.

Although some categories of stakeholders in the food supply chain such as food processing, distribution, and retail are exempted, the restrictions of movement if not well managed may hinder farmers from going to their farms and this will pose grave consequences for domestic food production and food security in Nigeria.

Although many Nigerian farmers are in the rural communities and may still go to their farms despite the restriction on movements, there is likely going to be a huge shortage of agricultural support services such as the provision of improved seeds, labour, fertilizer, agricultural chemicals, and extension services which are impeded by the restrictions on movements. Without these services adequately provided, there will be low food production.

Nigeria is already suffering challenges related to logistics bottlenecks (not being able to move food from one point to the other), and there is less food of high-value commodities (i.e. fruits and vegetables) being produced.

Also, there is currently an upsurge in the prices of the most food commodities particularly the perishable food

Recall that Nigeria closed her land borders months before the COVID 19 outbreak and currently, further tighter measures are being taken regarding cross border trades and markets across many countries in the sub-region.

With current measures in place to fight against the disease, Nigeria risks a looming food crisis, unless actions are taken fast enough to protect the most vulnerable, keep the food supply chains alive and mitigate the pandemic’s impacts across the food system.

Given that the rains have started and farmers are ready to move to the field to cultivate, it would be relevant to address some fundamental issues of food security on the premise that impending food crisis can be deadlier than the COVID 19.

Government need to consider farming and agricultural input distribution as an essential service and include the logistics support for the agricultural value chains as part of the stakeholders exempted from the restrictions and ban on movement.

There is the need to convey fertilizer, improved seeds, agrochemical, animal feeds etc. from one place to the other. Agricultural input suppliers should be allowed to operate, the same way pharmacies are allowed to operate; this way, farmers can purchase their agro-inputs and carry out their farming activities.

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