THE Senate yesterday frown on the huge amount of money the country was spending on food importation at the expense of post-harvest losses in the country.

By Gabriel Olawale

Speaking at a 2-day National Stakeholders Consultative Meeting on the 2023 Agriculture Budget which was put together by ActionAid, Oxfam among others in Lagos yesterday, the Chairman Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Sen. Bima Muhammad Enagi, said Nigeria’s food import bills were increasing on annual bases.

“Nigeria’s food import bill is increasing and the highest imports of agricultural goods into the country was recorded in 2021, as products valued at N2.74 trillion were imported, while local post-harvest losses is estimated at N3. 5 trillion annually, with each state and LGA having it’s own large share.”

He noted that despite government’s effort to improve the space for more public/private partnerships arrangements in Nigeria’s agriculture sector, “smallholder women farmers’ access to such schemes across the country remained below 27 per cent.

Enagi, who suggested scaling up of public investment in agriculture, admonished the three tiers of government to commit 10 per cent of their annual budget to the agriculture sector.

“We call on federal and state executives, national and state houses of Assembly to scale up public investment in agriculture, and ensure timely consideration, passage, and total budget releases as a strategic approach to increase food production, reduce hunger and poverty and achieve the Maputo/Malabo commitments,” he said.

On his part, the Executive Director of National Agric Extension Research and Liason Services, Prof. Ikani Emmanuel, who read the communique jointly signed by over 66 stakeholders, regretted that late releases of funds to the sector continued to impede the capacity of federal and state governments to drive socio-economic development, including food and nutrition security, within the policy thrust of the diversification of the economy towards agriculture.

Emmanuel advised states to develop their own agriculture investment plan, saying “this will enable the efforts at the states and local government levels to be recognized in the overall determination of the country’s commitment to the CAADP and enable accurate data for the Biennial Review Reporting.”

The stakeholders appealed to the federal government to develop pesticide policies and legislation that ensured that the most toxic pesticides were prohibited, and phased out in Nigeria.

“To achieve this, the government needs to develop a safe sustainable food strategy that reduces the use of highly toxic synthetic chemical pesticides by 50 per cent by 2030; 25 per cent by 2040, a maximum 5 per cent by 2050 and strong support to be given to farmers in their transition towards agro-ecology,” they canvassed.

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