Ken Ife: Nigeria in Food Security Emergency, Nothing Shameful in Production Contracts with Neighbouring Countries

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Professor Ken Ife, Lead Consultant on Private Sector Development to the ECOWAS Commission, has declared that Nigeria is in a state of emergency regarding food security and there is nothing shameful in production contracts with neighbouring countries.

During an interview with ARISE News on Wednesday, Professor Ife said, “When we are in a state of emergency, what we try to understand is the strategic underpinning. You have to have a strategic direction.” He identified four key areas: insecurity, inflation, strategic reserves, and land clearing.

In discussing insecurity, Professor Ife highlighted, “The pervasive insecurity has decimated the food production system in certain parts of the country.” On inflation, he noted that food inflation has been a significant issue, with a 7% gap over the last eight years. “We need to look more into what food inflation means and how new emergency measures connect with these challenges,” he added.

Addressing strategic reserves, Ife explained that relying on cross-border food production contracts with neighbouring countries like Benin and Cameroon could be beneficial. “There is nothing shameful in doing production contracts with our neighbouring places where there is more sustainability,” he said. He also mentioned the importance of allocating at least 10% of Nigeria’s food production to strategic reserves.

 On land clearing, Ife advocated for increased cultivation, particularly in the southern regions. “We should bring more lands into cultivation,” he stated, suggesting that 20% of the 10 billion naira given to states should be used to clear 500 hectares in each local government annually for the next three years.

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Ife also emphasised the need for a focus on bio-economy, bio-entrepreneurship, and biotechnology at the top of the food chain. He pointed out that Nigeria, being the world’s largest producer of cassava, should capitalise on this advantage. “We produce 25% of the world’s cassava, yet we import 93% of the second-level derivatives for our industry,” he remarked.

In terms of importation, Ife suggested that importing rice paddy instead of processed rice could help create jobs and boost the local milling capacity. He also underscored the necessity of addressing food insecurity alongside general insecurity. “The solution to insecurity will have to be found, but we will not die of starvation and hunger until that solution is found,” he asserted.

Finally, Ife proposed the idea of having marketing boards procure goods produced in frontier states and provide them to processors. “If the food production system is organised in such a way that the marketing board is involved in funding and buying up the produce, we can reduce the hemorrhage on cross-border imports,” he concluded.

NNEOMA UDENSI

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