As the world faces a disruption occasioned by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, nations of the world are anticipating a second wave of the virus as some have started mulling lockdown while others have re-entered lockdown.
Despite the number of confirmed cases in the country which have crossed the 30,000 mark, Nigerians are also faced with a looming food insecurity crisis.
In August 2019, the President Muhammadu Buhari, announced a partial closure of the land borders – which was aimed at curbing the smuggling of rice and other goods, which led to the rise in the prices of food items.
Buhari stated that the measures boosted rice production to 9.2 million tonnes last year from 7.2 million in 2015, making Nigeria more or less self-sufficient. However, the closure gave room for locally produced rice to gain momentum as markets became inundated with several brands of local rice.
The rise in Local Rice
The unavailability of imported rice led to a surge in the price of rice at the time, but Nigerians gained succour as local rice came to the rescue – however poor the quality may be at the time.
Over time, the production of rice in the country began to gain a noticeable improvement, as consumers complained less of the stones seen in the rice. In February 2020, a bag of local rice sold for an average of N19,250 but now consumers will have to spend an average of N24,000 to purchase a bag of rice.
Rice is unarguably one of the most consumed staples in Nigeria. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), between 35-59% of households cannot afford to buy staple foods like yam, rice and beans when needed.
With the bleak economic outlook and the untold hardship brought by the loss of job and decreased income, several households will have to adopt certain coping mechanisms in other to survive.
Activities of smugglers
Recently, the anti-smuggling task force of the Federal Government seized a truck loaded with 140 bags of 50 kilogrammes foreign rice, worth N2,142,000 was hidden in sharp sand.
This is, however, a pointer to the fact that Nigerians are desperate and desperate times call for desperate measures. How do we become food secure and boost the production of rice in Nigeria in the face of the current challenge?
According to a publication by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), boosting the production of rice in Nigeria is a priority for the government in the past seven years and significant progress has been recorded as rice production in Nigeria reached a peak of 3.7 million tonnes in 2017.
However, Nigeria may not be able to attain its full potential in terms of productivity and increased production if we continue to rely heavily on manual labour and we may be unable to attain the projected food security especially for rice.
Lagos Govt. intervention
Meanwhile, the Lagos state government in May, announced that the 32 Metric-Ton-per hour rice mill at Imota will be delivered on or before the end of the year. As Nigerians anticipate the collaboration of both the public and private sector to tackle the looming food insecurity, farmers should be encouraged and integrated into the operations of the mill.
While the restrictions and lockdown imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19 may have posed a challenge, the onus is on the government to provide an enabling environment with investment opportunities especially in the production of rice and across other agricultural value chains.
By Oluwatosin Ojebisi, Business Analyst