By Adeola Badru
An agribusiness expert and founder of Farmkonnect, a foremost multi-dimensional agric firm in Nigeria, Mr Oluwole Azeez, has warned that the global Coronavirus pandemic may trigger a “looming food crisis,” if urgent and drastic measures are not taken.
He added that the country might be hit by food scarcity that will be difficult to manage.
The agribusiness expert made this known in an interview with Sunday Vanguard, on the impending food crisis looming in the country as a result of a lull in farming activities caused by the pandemic.
Azeez, whose career in agriculture, spanned 20 years, noted that lots of farmers are locked up in the house because of the Coronavirus, except the ones who are in villages that could move around.
His words: “What we don’t know is this, the food we are eating in 2020 is the food we harvested in 2019. 2021 hunger is looming. The only grace I’m seeing is that the rain is not at its peak. We may be fortunate to have the rain extended to early next year. So, maybe we can still key into that. That is even if the rain will be plenty.”
“The climate change now is almost permutation. So, COVID-19 is going to have serious impacts on food security. Except we come in and attack it and reduce the impact. It is just mitigation. That, there won’t be food scarcity next year I doubt it , except the miracle that happened in the Bible happens. Food scarcity is imminent because people are not farming. They are at home.”
“A lot of farmers have jettisoned farming. Some people farmed, harvested but lost all their harvests. Where do they get to start again? Except government intervenes for that kind of people. Some people have eaten their capital which they are supposed to buy seeds to farm. You cannot be hungry and be attending to any other case. So, they have eaten the capital and those guys may either scale down on production or out of business.”
“These are the issues with smallholders farmers. Even some big agribusiness companies said they have distress because of this COVID-19. I didn’t plan there will be COVID-19, but because I was scaling up, I stopped production in February to give space for renovations and other things. So, we have challenges moving our consignment from the port I need to go and buy my trailers.”
“Now, imagine what happens to a person who doesn’t have money to buy trailers. The government said there should be no demurrage, there should be no this and that, it wasn’t true. That’s just political. I paid demurrage, the detention fees, VAT and everything. It is an only duty on agriculture I did not pay.”
He, however, advised the government in the need to reduce VAT on agricultural equipment import, provide some technical and financial support to farmers, noting that: “Not the audio support but physical one. Hunger is looming. Farmers, smallholders need to get back on their feet. Not everybody will be big enough to call the commissioner or director and request for passes.”
“I have never collected any grant or any government loan. But Osun State has been of tremendous support. During the COVID-19, we have a few passes to move around the whole of Southwest. That gave us the edge.”
“I have approached the Oyo State government on one or two occasions. Even we did a dinner in December. We wrote them but the Ministry of Agriculture did not respond. It’s until after the COVID-19 came and we did palliative that the state started to give us little attention. The day we had a meeting to talk to me, Really, I wanted to bring up an idea. I’m never under pressure because I don’t need anything from them,” he maintained.
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