The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has allayed fears over an impending threat of food insufficiency in Nigeria.
Speaking at a Capacity Building Training for ECOWAS member states, organised by the Food and Agricultural Organisation to teach stakeholders control and management of armyworm outbreak in West Africa, Ogbeh said despite the outbreak of armyworm that has affected most states, the country was not threatened by food insufficiency but high cost of food items in the market.
“We are not happy that many Nigerians cannot buy food. We have no shortage of food anywhere in the country. but the prices are a bit high. Farmers won’t lose but those who do not farm have to eat food as well,” he said.
He explained that some factors that led to the high price of food items in the country include bad road network to transport food items from one point to another.
“Roads are bad and transporters will tell you that it costs high to move food from one place to the other. I was in Ekiti recently. A tuber of yam I saw that was sold for N300 was sold for N1,500 in Lagos.
“There is no reason for that kind of hike. We should all be reasonable and know that not all have to be farmers. Those that are not farmers played higher role in the country’s development too,” he said.
But he explained that every state would be affected by armyworm outbreak, which began in Oyo State and has spread very quickly to Ondo, Edo and other states two years ago.
“Right now, there is hardly any state that is not affected by this pest. The problem with armyworm is that it hides right deep in the stem that even if you spray ordinary spray crop, it won’t stop it. They come out at night, so, farmers have to be on alert at night or very early in the morning to spray the chemical, which is difficult and the spray is done vertically and not horizontally.’’
He explained that some of the chemicals used were not very safe, saying the country was looking for organic chemical, including lime which is good.
“Some professors have started developing how to manage this; then, we can deal with it in no time. That is why this seminar is very vital. We have to train the trainers, who will be going to states to teach farmers to spray their farms.
Ogbeh, however, advised Nigerians not to panic but to keep working to improve production, adding that the country was already getting support from experienced organisations to mitigate the problem.
“This issue happened in Europe and they were able to curtail it. Our own climate encourages the development of all kinds of pests because it is warm here but we shouldn’t be scared,” he said.