Emergency on food production: Farmer calls for establishment of Food Intelligence Agency

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A farmer and former Senator, who represented Ebonyi Central Senatorial Zone, has called for the establishment of the proposed Food Intelligence Agency (FIA) to support recent Federal Government declaration of emergency in food production and security.

Onwe made the call on Sunday in Enugu while briefing journalists on his Open Letter to President Bola Tinubu with the title: “Declaration of a State of Emergency on Food Security and ‘Commodification of the Naira Using Cassava’: What Can I Do for my Country”.

He noted that the declaration of the state of emergency on food security should had galvanized a mass action in agricultural practices that would have pushed the FIA agency into action to rescue the nation from food inflation, hunger and outright population starvation.

According to him, this is where the role of the proposed Food Intelligence Agency (FIA) rises to the top.

“A Food Intelligence Agency (FIA) – the strike squad of food security and food sovereignty – would have played a significant and defining role in investigating, assessing and recording the state of food production, consumption and preservation across Nigeria.

“Such a body would have the capacity to provide actionable intelligence on the threats and prospects of food production so that these recurring and embarrassing emergencies in food availability could be proactively averted.

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“The intermittent emergency reaction to food shortages in this country is absolutely embarrassing not just at national but international level,” he said.

Onwe, who described himself as big farmer with over 300 hectares of cassava farm, noted that if attention and resources given to politics are made available to food production for consumption and export, “by now crude oil will not be our major foreign exchange earner as a nation”.

“Nigeria is now steeped in a culture where politics and politicking sucks in every ounce of the national energy. Politics grabs the nation by the jugular and freezes the very lifeblood cursing through the national veins,” he said.

The senator argued that growing trend of using “insecirity everywhere” as excuse for farmers not going to farms was deceptive, adding that insecurity or hoodlums activities had not out-numbered all sections or zones of the country.

According to him, it is true that terrorism and banditry have played a consequential role in the particular fate of famers in some regions and the general outcome for food availability in this country.

“However, that impediment can easily be overcome through radical measures in terms of opening up alternative areas for production of the most essential agricultural produce that would result in immediate alleviation of not just the potential but immediate threat of starvation among our citizens.

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“The Government of Nigeria cannot be defeated by a marauding band of criminals threatening some of our farmlands. Yes, some farmlands, not all farmlands, are threatened by these criminals.

“Nigeria has more than 70 million hectares of arable land out of which less than 20 per cent is under cultivation of any sort.

“Further, President Tinubu, you ordered that agricultural essentials such as fertilizers and other inputs be released to farmers. Well, the farming season is virtually upon us. The first rains have come.

“The pertinent question now is: who is distributing the farm inputs, where, and who are the recipients?”
he said.

The senator noted that any measure of intervention that does not bring representative farmers together – not politicized organisations populated by political farmers that cannot boast of a hectare of farm – is bound to fail.

Onwe also strongly advised President Tinubu to include genuine and experienced farmers in his National Economic Council.

On cassava production, he noted that the value of cassava had risen in international market and had become international commodity fetching some countries good foreign exchange.

Onwe said that it was discovered that the crop had 38 internationally sort for by-products for industries.

The senator noted that Nigeria had great comparative advantage in production of cassava and currently the highest producer of the crop with the African sub-region but “we needed to improve our local production to meet our local consumption as well as meet international demand”.

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“Cassava can be Nigeria major foreign earner if we nationally and individually focus on improving on its production through planting high-yield cassava stem, expanding its hectares and practicing good agronomy,” he said.

He also called for the support of rural small holder farmers, who are patriotic and brave Nigerians, toiling away by clearing the bushes for planting purpose for the survival of all Nigerians.

The senator said: “The rural farmers needed encourage to do better and get more yield.

“This encourage can come in form of provision of the best quality of inputs such as herbicide, insecticide, pesticide, fertilizers, high-yield seedlings, on the farm agronomy training and other support.”

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