The Federal Government has called for a robust synergy with State Governments and other critical Stakeholders in cushioning the effect of COVID -19 Pandemic on Food Security. Stating that this will ensure food security, economic growth, job creation and prevent food scarcity in the Country.

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Hon. Mustapha Baba Shehuri stated this during the flag-off ceremony of the distribution of free agricultural inputs to farmers as part of the mitigation measures against the Pandemic. The event was held at the Ministry’s Zonal office, Moore Plantation, Apata – Ibadan, in Oyo State, today.

Hon. Baba Shehuri noted that ‘’ a number of countries have banned or drastically reduced food exports to avoid scarcity of food. With dwindling oil revenues and limited opportunity to import food from other countries, one would only wonder what Nigeria would have been experiencing today, in terms of food supply, if this Administration had not taken the right policy steps and remained focused and steadfast in investing in agriculture”.

The Minister emphasized that the Ministry is supporting breeder and foundation seeds production and linking up with the private seed companies to make certified seeds available to farmers for excellent yield.

He pointed out that ‘’ since smallholders are the most vulnerable, it becomes imperative for the government to support them with the much-needed inputs especially seeds, which is the most important factor that influences farmers’ yield in order to enable them to recover quickly from the set back of the Pandemic’’.

Baba Shehuri informed that ‘’the distribution of agricultural inputs to smallholder farmers which include different categories of seeds of Kenaf, yam and cocoa seedlings is part of the Ministry’s intervention to reduce the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on agricultural production in Nigeria and avert food scarcity in 2021’’.

He also said that ‘’through this effort and other complementary interventions by different stakeholders, the government hopes to increase the resilience of farmers and the national food systems in general’’.

He stated that ‘’the Ministry is supporting kenaf farmers through the Kenaf Producers, Processors and Marketers Association (KEPPMAN) with 19,672 kg kenaf foundation seeds.

The Minister added that ‘’ the yam farmers through their national association and other cooperative groups are also being supported with about 12 MT of foundation seed for the production of certified seeds’’.

He explained that ‘’the Ministry is also distributing over 18,000kg of organic insecticide to combat armyworm infestation in maize. We are also distributing 66,000 cocoa seedlings to farmers nationwide. These seeds are being given to farmers free of charge while other inputs are given at 75% subsidy’’.

Hon Shehuri stated that ‘’ In our input distribution efforts, at least 35% of the inputs are targeted at women farmers in line with the targets set in our National Gender Plan and Policies aimed at ensuring increased opportunities for women. This has been communicated to the Farmer Associations accordingly’’.

He noted that ‘’ the Ministry and its research institutions are working towards making Nigeria self-sufficient in good quality seeds and its availability to farmers as a foundation for attaining food and nutrition security as well as industrialization’’.

He emphasized that the Ministry is supporting breeder and foundation seeds production and linking up with the private seed companies to make certified seeds available to farmers.

Shehuri stressed that ‘’ this coupled with Ministry’s efforts to improve rural infrastructure and other value-chains supports would invariably contribute to the attainment of Mr President’s desire to ensure easy access to quality food and nutrition by Nigerians’’.

Hon. Baba Shehuri further said that ‘’ this is the third in the series of the distribution of the Ministry’s palliative incentive to farmers nationwide with Kogi State as the next port of call. He also appreciated the robust cooperation and support received from Development Partners in the fight against the effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on our food security.

In his remarks, the Executive Governor of Oyo State, Engr. Oluseyi Makinde, represented by the Secretary of the State Government, Mrs Olubamiwo Adeosun, said that “the countries that have successfully managed their own agricultural transformation have incorporated the following processes: modernizing business, strengthening the links between process, production and market.

The Governor added that “they have also adopted innovative and modern technology to ensure a data-driven process that is empirically documented and evidence-driven”,. He appreciated the Federal Government for being proactive toward ensuring that Nigeria averted food scarcity in 2021.

In his welcome address, the Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development in Oyo State, Hon. Ojekunle Ojemuyiwa stated that ” this event is very apt at this critical period of COVID-19 Pandemic which is ravaging the economy of the world including Nigeria. COVID- 19 Pandemic is a monster that all hands must be on deck to curtail and eradicate from our society “.

While giving the vote of thanks, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Abdulkadir Mu’azu, represented by the Director, Federal Department of Agriculture, Hajia Karima Babaginda, said that the choice of Oyo State is not out of place as it is known to be the highest hub for agricultural institutes in the country and also contributes significantly to the production of yam, cocoa among others.

Dr. Mu’azu thanked his Excellency, the Executive Governor of Oyo State, Engr. OluSeyi Makinde for gracing the occasion and rolling out the seed distribution exercise of Kenaf, yam and cocoa farmers; and the organic insecticide to combat armyworm in maize.