Minister’s aide calls for revamp of Nigeria’s food system

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Mr Richard-Mark Mbaram, Technical Adviser to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, on Knowledge Management and Communication, has called for revamp of the nation’s food system architecture to sustainably grow the economy.

Mbaram, also a member of the Feed Nigeria Summit (FNS) 2021’s Organising Committee said this on Monday in Lagos that it had become pertinent to address concerns surrounding the critical value chain activities in the agriculture sector.

National Daily reports that FNS 2021 with the theme: “Post COVID-19: A Repaired Food System; Pathway to a Revived Economy’’, is scheduled to hold on Aug. 23 and Aug. 24 in Abuja.

Among the sponsors for the FNS 2021 were: African Development Bank Group (AfDB), AFEX, United Kingdom Department for International Trade and IFAD.

Mbaram said that the summit would target the resuscitation of Nigeria’s food system, which he said was severely disrupted by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

According to him, there is a need for objective auditing of the entire agricultural ecosystem to ascertain areas of strength and weaknesses; hence the summit’s theme.

“Theme of this year’s Feed Nigeria Summit resonates with the current realities we face globally from the prism of the food system, heavily occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“From Nigeria’s perspective, there is so much at stake. With this summit, we are looking to x-ray these realities,” Mbaram said.

According to him, though laudable, efforts and measures made by the government to improve the food system following the COVID-19 pandemic, are still curtailed by challenges.

He said that these had continuously resulted in low productivity, price variations and unfavourable trade realities, post-harvest loss, malnutrition and unemployment.

Mbaram said that addressing these concerns would inevitably strengthen the overall economic recovery efforts of the government at all levels.

He said, “For us, if we can repair the country’s food system, then, certainly our economic-revamp efforts will be on the right track.’’

According to him, the summit would bring together private, public and developing partners/communities, and also create a pathway for agricultural and economic rejuvenation and trigger realisation of the government’s policies and interventions.

Mbaram, had in a virtual news conference, said that focus would be placed on the Special Agro-Processing Zones (SAPZ) and the inherent potential to impact the country’s economy through the inflow of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).

He said the current momentum on SAPZ, supported by Africa Development Bank, International Funds for Agriculture Development and Islamic Development Bank, would further transform the market viability of the country’s agriculture investments.

“The SAPZ has moved up from the normal norm of agricultural projects not seeing the light of day; I’m happy to state that a series of activities have taken place from January till now.

“These will culminate in the recourse of the AfDB by October, following which, there will be a drop-down for the project to commence by November.

“These timelines cannot change anymore following the progress made by the SAPZ. This project is the main vehicle carrying other activities of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“Some of the main focus would be the Federal Government’s mechanisation programme (that is the green imperative); the extension programme and looking at Research and Development.

“The key components to making agricultural and economic transformation a reality is making modern technologies available and supporting investment in agricultural Research and Development (R&D),” he said.

Mbaram also explained that without research, Nigeria could not really make the kind of progress, which the country was looking to make in advancing Nigeria’s economic prospects, enhances farmers’ productivity and livelihoods.

On the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), Mbaram said the local market was profound than exporting to Europe and other countries.

He said the AfCFTA was a significant and remarkable transformational result on the part of African leaders to create a free market ecosystem for foods and services to move within the continent.

The summit committee member said, “It is easier to do business with other African countries than with the far Eastern markets.’’

He hinted that FNS had in the past, impacted decision making and policy formation for the agriculture ecosystem, hoping that more jobs, targeted at infrastructure, mechanisation, increased productivity and livelihoods, would be evident by March 2022 as a fall-out from the programme.