Buhari’s resilient food supply chain claim conflicts with reality


President Muhammadu Buhari, in a tweet on July 15, said the seven years of investments and policies of his administration towards attaining food security had made the country better prepared to cope with the inevitable agricultural supply chain disruptions occasioned by COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war.

Existing evidence, however, does not suggest that the President’s claim is true as the country’s food supply chain is not better prepared to cope with the disruptions caused by the pandemic and the Russian-Ukraine war.

Food prices in Africa’s most populous country have surged by over 50 percent owing to global supply chain disruptions caused by the Russia-Ukraine war and by over 200 percent following pandemic-induced disruptions.

The Russia-Ukraine crisis worsened Nigeria’s food and energy challenges as it exposed the country’s vulnerability owing to its huge reliance on imports to meet basic needs.

Availability of fertiliser became an uphill task, with prices more than triple across the country owing to the war. A 50kg bag of fertiliser sold in January for N12,000 now sells for as much as N28,500 in the farming community of Ketu-Epe in Lagos, BusinessDay findings show.

The price of Automotive Gas Oil, popularly known as diesel, has soared by 178 percent year-to-date to an average of N800 per litre from an average of N288 in January. The logistics cost of moving agricultural produce from the North, where it is cultivated to the South, where the markets are located, averages N600,000 per truck, compared to N350,000 in 2015.

The pressure of rising inputs and energy costs has further heightened food shortages in the country amid worsening insecurity. Inflation in Africa’s biggest economy hit 18.6 percent in June, the highest in five years, and the food index rose by 20.6 percent in June from 19.5 percent in May.

Critical infrastructures such as motorable rural roads and storage facilities are still absent in Nigeria’s food supply chain, hence reducing farmers’ profit and negatively impacting their capacity to increase productivity.

Key players in the agriculture value chain say Nigeria is yet to record any improvement in its supply chain since 2015 as key issues limiting production remain unaddressed.

“Our food supply chain was not better prepared for inevitable supply chain disruptions occasioned by the pandemic and the Ukraine invasion,” said Victor Olowe, a professor and agronomist at the Institute of Food Security, Environmental Resources and Agricultural Research.

“There are no measures in place to address any urgent food crisis and long-term sustainability of the country’s food system,” Olowe said.

According to him, farm inputs are not easily available and are not affordable for farmers, and the high cost of diesel has compounded the challenges in the supply chain.

He said it had become more expensive to power farm machinery, making it harder for farmers to mechanise their farm processes.

Obiora Madu, chief executive officer at Multimix Group, said the country had not improved on its logistic performance since 2015, adding that it is an indication that Nigeria’s agricultural supply chain has not improved.

He stressed that post-harvest losses in the country are on the rise owing to disruptions in the supply chain.

“I do not agree with the President’s statement that the agricultural supply chain is better prepared to cope with any inevitable disruptions,” Madu said.

“Logistics has not improved. It is still more expensive to move commodities across Nigeria than it would cost to move them in other African countries. We still do not have any infrastructure for cold chains,” he said.

So much noise about agriculture, yet little progress

In 2015, when the Buhari government took over power, it renewed the country’s focus on the agricultural sector following the 2014 collapse of global crude oil prices.

The shift was necessitated by the growing rate of youth unemployment and the vast agricultural potential that can drive a more sustainable economic development in Africa’s most populous country.

To drive this growth, Buhari’s administration initiated several schemes to support farmers with finance – but most of the schemes have not addressed the issues that have limited productivity for decades.

Read also: The Sad, Sorry and Scary state of food insecurity in Africa

The yield per hectare in Nigeria is low compared with other top African economies. Nigeria’s yield per hectare for maize is 5.35, compared to 16.64 in South Africa, 5.4 in Egypt and 1.73 in Kenya. For tomatoes, Nigeria’s yield per hectare is 4.37, compared to 69.33 in South Africa, 39.4 in Egypt and 29.34 in Kenya. For rice, it is 2.00 per hectare for Nigeria, 2.82 in SA, 8.83 in Egypt and 6.4 in Kenya, according to data from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

Mechanisation in Nigeria agriculture, which can expand the value chain and create more jobs, is lacking, according to a 2018 survey by NOI Polls.

Nigeria is one of the least mechanised farming countries in the world, with the country’s tractor density put at 0.27hp per hectare, which is far below the FAO-recommended tractor density of 1.5hp per hectare.

This is one reason farming has remained mainly subsistence rather than commercial in Africa’s biggest economy.

Food production in the country is still largely insufficient to satisfy its 200 million people. Nigeria’s widening food deficit was highlighted in the Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016 – 2020) document of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture which shows there are 20.14 million tonnes of crop deficit and 60 million poultry birds deficit.

Post-harvest losses are still a big issue. The surge in post-harvest losses triggered by supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and insecurity has continued to widen the country’s food deficit, according to experts.

The annual income of farmers in Nigeria is $9,815, according to the FAO, but this is lower than South Africa’s $20,193 and Ethiopia’s $14,952.

Nigeria’s agriculture is making some progress, nonetheless. In real terms, the sector grew by 3.16 percent in the first quarter of 2022. But this growth is 1.54 percent lower than what was recorded in the same period of 2015.

The worsening insecurity in the country on Buhari’s watch has compounded farmers’ woes as farming activities have come under tremendous treats across the country owing to increasing kidnapping, banditry and terrorism.


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