COVID-19: Don raises concern over looming food crisis

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A don, Prof. Kolawole Adebayo, has raised concerns of a likely looming food and agriculture crisis in the country following the COVID-19 pandemic, which has warranted continued lockdown and stay-at-home orders.

Adebayo, a Professor of Agriculture at the Federal University of Agriculture (FUNAAB) in  Abeokuta,  expressed his concerns  in an interview on Wednesday in Lagos.

He sai that the COVID-19 pandemic really painted a terrible outlook out there for agriculture and food security in the country.

Adebayo said that with the advent of the 2020 planting season and with farmers not available to start early cultivation of crops, there might  be an adverse effect on food security in the country.

We should be concerned about food security in the coming months, following the lockdown of some states and stay-at-home orders in others.

“Farmers are also citizens of this country and are also expected to stay at home, if they do sit at home then how will food be produced? And we are actually in the planting season.

“We are a rain-fed agriculture nation and the rains have started, we need to start land preparation and start preparing for this year’s cultivation.

“So, we can see the direct relationship between the current pandemic and its effect on food security not just in Nigeria but across the world,” Adebayo said.

The professor said that the restrictions went beyond farming as the entire agriculture value chains had collapsed due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

He also added that unless the pandemic was nipped in the bud, the future looked bleak for worldwide agriculture practice.

“Beyond farming,  agriculture goes beyond cultivation, but is actually more on the value chains. Agriculture requires inputs and if these inputs are not available, how can agriculture thrive?

“For example, if people selling fertilisers cannot get it across to the farmers because of the restrictions or the seeds cannot get to the farmer or a lack of farm tools and machinery, how can the farmer work?

“On the other hand, if the farmer is able to cross all these hurdles, when the crops are ready for sale, which markets are the farmers going to take the crops to.

“There will also be lack of uptakers, because all the uptaking businesses have also been asked to shut down.

“So unless we find a quick solution to COVID-19 pandemic, the long term problem of food insecurity will still have to be faced,” he said.

Adebayo regretted the fact that Nigeria had no food reserves in place in the possibility of a food crisis in the country, as farmers may be unable to plant this year or harvest next year.

“Let us assume we are able to survive based on the food that is already in store somewhere (I do not think there is any food in store anywhere), what happens next season if we are not harvesting anything?

“Because if you do not plant, you will not be harvesting anything. So, if we are unable to plant as much as we would have loved  to plant and vice versa, what will  happen to next year’s food security?

“Many of our crops are annual crops like cassava. If you plant it this year; you are going to harvest it next year. That means if we do not plant this year, we will not be able to harvest next year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic really paints a terrible outlook out there for agriculture and food security in the country,” Adebayo said.

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