3 Pragmatic Approaches Towards Ensuring Food-Security During And Post COVID-19

            By  Ademola Adelu 
              (Digital Agriculturist)

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Without mincing words, one of the current topical issues is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security.

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In tandem with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reports, there are currently over 12,000 confirmed cases and more than 300 people have died as a result of this global disease.

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We should also recall that the federal government, in collaboration with some state governors, earlier imposed a total restriction on social association, mobility, non-essential economic, and leisure activities as a drastic approach to assuage the spread of the virus.

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However, the national closure now has a ripple effect on food sector especially as regards tightening of credit access to farmers, limited access to inputs for farmers, limited access to transport services and lots more. Consequently, these have contributed to a hike in prices of food.

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Asides the fact that there was already a shortage of food supplies for Nigeria’s growing population before the COVID-19, World Health Organisation in 2018 reported that Nigeria is overwhelmed by three key indicators of malnutrition: anaemia, obesity and stunted growth. The lead health organisation also regarded malnutrition as deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s energy and nutrient intake.

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The enormous impact of malnutrition transcends the human physical health to mental health, which consequently could affect the productivity and economic gains of the nation. A gamut of studies have established the nexus between malnutrition and predisposition to infectious diseases as well as non-communicable diseases. In view of this, it is very important that the proactive measures are hastened and existing plans are strengthened.

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It is worthy to also note that several Nigerian SMEs across the agricultural value chain have lamented about some of the challenges posed to them since the inception of this critical period. Prominent among these are inaccessibility to raw materials, as agricultural produce is becoming a critical bottleneck.

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In addition, supply and demand challenges have also led to an inability to meet loan repayment schedules for most businesses. Ultimately, if things do not improve in the short term, these SMEs will have no option but to shut down and be completely out of business.

The Way Forward

As regards the aforementioned, drastic measures must be put in place to ensure this health crisis does not exacerbate the food security challenges in the country. It is important that the Nigerian government and relevant stakeholders put in place measures to strengthen local food production and supply and in turn moderate the cost of food.

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Some key players in the sector have however recommended some practical solutions. Ndidi Nwuneli, Managing Partner, and Co-Founder AACE Food averred that SMEs must immediately review their cash flow and plan for a range of scenarios. She further justified the need for SMEs to explore other viable options like E-commerce-mediated direct sales and opportunities to share digital spaces such as websites with complementary businesses to reduce costs.

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In another blip, productive capacity can be increased or facilitated through grants to SMEs or through investment subsidies, interest rate subsidies, or policies that encourage investment. For instance, subsidies or grants can be targeted to cover key inputs such as electricity generation costs to ensure refrigeration and processing equipment remain operational.

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Also, intervention funds should be disbursed through the Bank of Industry, Central Bank African Development Bank and other financial institutions. It is however imperative that these measures should be targeted specifically at the food sector and accessibility to these incentives should be friendly to the players within the agricultural value chain.

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To wrap up, for us to achieve food security as a nation now and beyond this critical period, SMEs in the food sector across the value chain must be supported in revolutionizing their businesses with viable paradigms.

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