NIGERIA AND ECONOMIC RECESSION: WAY OUT (8)
“In the absence of improved food processing methods and storage facilities, the fear of losing these products due to the effects of nature is one factor that may prevent farmers from engaging in their cultivation on a much larger scale than that which exists at the moment. Therefore it may be counter-productive for any farmer to heed the call of government by participating in whatever measures are introduced to boost crop production without assurances that facilities will be put in place for the storage of the products”.
In my examination of how Nigeria can revive agriculture as a means of getting the economy out of recession I have already stated the need for mechanised farming. I have discussed how government can purchase the needed equipment and put in a place a process whereby farmers would apply to have the equipments utilised on their farms. I also stated how government can fund the acquisition of land required for large scale farming, a feat which many farmers may not be able to achieve without government intervention. I have made these suggestions with a view to achieving self-sufficiency in food production in Nigeria. However such large scale production comes with some concerns regarding storage.
NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT IN FOOD PROCESSING AND PRESERVATION METHODS
To be specific, if there is increased food production, there must be a means for storing these products to ensure their availability all year round. Nigeria is a tropical country which enjoys bright but hot weather. However the hot weather encourages and causes rapid breeding of germs. On the other hand, countries in temperate regions of the world enjoy cool or cold weather which discourages rapid breeding of germs. In countries which parades temperate weather, such as Britain, agricultural produce do last for many weeks or months before they over-ripe.
In Nigeria, farm produce such as oranges, tomato, shaddock, grape, lemon, cashew, yam, cassava, palm fruits and pumpkin are seasonal. At harvest time, almost every farmer produces these fruits in large quantity. Everywhere you go, you will see hawkers and store keepers display these fruits in large quantity. Consequently, they are sold at non-profitable prices. At the end, most of them rot away
In the absence of improved food processing methods and storage facilities, the fear of losing these products due to the effects of nature is one factor that may prevent farmers from engaging in their cultivation on a much larger scale than that which exists at the moment. Therefore it may be counter productive for any farmer to heed the call of government by participating in whatever measures are introduced to boost crop production without assurances that facilities will be put in place for the storage of the products. I recall that at a time, in response to the call of government for increased participation of the citizenry in farming with particular emphasis on cassava cultivation, many Nigerians planted cassava. I planted over six hectares of cassava. At harvest time, I had nowhere to process or preserve my cassava, consequently, I sustained heavy loss.
It is in the light of the above that governments at the federal and state levels must pay attention to the need for the constant evolution of food processing techniques and preservation. Indeed the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) as far back as 1960 passed Resolution No. 35/59 calling on government world over to pay attention to the need for research in this area. The text of the resolution reads as follows:
Resolution No. 35/59
Methods of Food Processing and Preservation
Having noted the request of the 1957 Session of the Conference concerning traditional methods of food processing and preservation, and
Having considered that such methods can be improved and their use extended, thereby preventing wastage of food and losses in nutritive value,
Requests Member Governments to assist the Organization in collecting information in this field, so that studies may be undertaken for the improvement and extension of such methods;
Urges Member Governments to collaborate with the Organization by including such studies in the programs of food and nutrition institutes;…
It is perhaps in recognition of this that successive governments in Nigeria have made efforts to build silos across the country for the preservation of grains. According to reports, there is a push to increase the storage capacity of the nations silos from 300,000 mt to 600,000 mt. However the project, as is the case with many developmental efforts in Nigeria has been stalled. About two kilometers to my university, there is an uncompleted billion naira silo project. Work started on the project long before I conceived the idea of building a university, honestly, each time I passed through, I keep on asking myself, what a country!
Writing on the issue in an article titled ‘The Political economy of food price policy in Nigeria’ Aderibigbe Olomola stated as follows:
“The federal government took a decision to complete the outstanding storage projects before the end of 2008 in order to increase the national strategic food reserve capacity from 300,000 to 600,000 mt. The silos project had commenced a long time ago and had not been completed, so the government provided funds for their completion…It was envisaged that up to two million mt silos capacity would be required for the country. Efforts were made to complete 17 silos which were already at various stages of completion (1 to 85 percent completion) across the country. The federal government also decided to start up the building of eleven others in various states of the country. A sum of NGN 15 billion was earmarked for this purpose. To date, however, many of the silos remain uncompleted and the target capacity has not been met due to poor budget implementation especially non-release of appropriated funds.”
Given the above, it is necessary for government to pay urgent attention to the completion of the silos around the country. Furthermore as noted by the FAO, research institutes must be encouraged through increased funding to find ways of complementing well established traditional means of food processing and preservation.
To be continued
AARE AFE BABALOLA SAN, CON