By Benjamin Umuteme
A coalition of Farmers under the aegis of Zero Hunger Commodities (ZHC), have called for increased support from the Federal Government to enable farmers to engage in massive food production across the country.
Speaking in Abuja after a meeting of the group, its National Coordinator, Dr. Tunde Arosanyin, said that the government was unwilling to commit its money to where its mouth is causing many farmers to abandon farming for other vocations.
According to him, this might negatively affect food production on the long run.
In spite of the existing challenges, he noted, the agricultural sector still had a number of opportunities which could be further exploited by the private sector.
“However, factors like irrigation farming schemes, availability of farmers groups, existence of favourable policies and strategies, among others, would boost agricultural production and productivity, if they are well-harnessed and effectively utilised.
“Improved agricultural production will serve as a basis for poverty alleviation, particularly in the rural areas,’’ he said.
Also speaking, the Chairman, Potatoes Farmers Association of Nigeria (POFAN), Mr. Daniel Okafor, lamented the plight of Nigerian farmers saying that despite the importance the government attached to agriculture it did not reflect in increased production.
He stressed that the farmers were at the mercy of the buyers of farm produce, adding that they were facing other challenges such as post-harvest losses, particularly with regard to perishable produces.
“Certainly, government is slow in making efforts to help farmers out in achieving their dream of making the country a self-sufficient nation in food production,’’ he said.
Okafor said that the government should put in place pragmatic mechanisms to purchase food commodities such as rice, garri and fish, among others, directly from local farmers, rather than importing those commodities from other countries.
He said that since the government had initiated its school feeding programme, tangible efforts should be made to compel the school authorities to buy food commodities directly from farmers.
He added that foodstuffs like rice, garri and fish, for instance, should be purchased directly from local farmers, rather than relying on food imports.
“No doubt, this will show the seriousness of the government in efforts to revive the agricultural sector and boost the nation’s economy.