The declaration by Federal Government, that there will be outbreak of famine in the country by next month, appears to have engender mass purchase of food just as prices of food items have risen astronomically in some markets.
When the Federal Government, few weeks ago, warned about an imminent outbreak of famine by January 2017 in the country, many Nigerians expressed concerns over the warning insisting that concerted efforts needed to be taken to avert the disaster.
Good enough, the government appears to be marshalling some clear cut plans for the purchase of surplus food to be stored in varied warehouses across the country to avert hunger.
This declaration which obviously is an early warning signal from a responsive government, seems to be in line with the government’s responsibility to ensure food security in the country.
But since the alarm was raised, there are indications that it has generated more troubles for Nigerians than enhancing their living conditions as currently, there is mass purchase of food in the Nigerian markets with a corresponding increase in the prices of food items.
The prediction of famine by the federal government has been widely described by public affairs analysts as a source of worry that should propelled not just the federal government but the states and local government councils to taking measures that will ensure the prediction did not see the light of the day.
Indeed, some analysts opined that the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East, as well as heinous invasions of Fulani herdsmen and the attendant clashes between farmers and herdsmen which led to destruction of farmlands and produce could well be instrumental.
According to them, the delay in ensuring a permanent end the insurgency and the seeming reluctance of government to confront the challenge of herders/farmers clash remained a major snag in the drive towards achieving the much needed food security in the country.
Our correspondents reports that the crisis between herders and farmers is more prevalent in most of the food producing states where the dastardly activities of Fulani Herdsmen has led to the displacement of scores of farmers who, till now, cannot access their farms. The situation became worse that during this year’s cropping season, communities were left at their fate as there was inadequate security in the areas to protect farmers during farming activities.
Like in Egypt, the biblical history revealed of how there was prediction of imminent hunger in the land and the King, Emperor Pharaoh wisely appointed Joseph, an Israelite who was sold to the land on slavery, to become food minister in order to save surplus food. This, may also, be applicable to Nigeria in order to prevent the country from food crisis and hunger where already, analysts are calling for establishment of food ministry.
Retrospectively, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had made the famine declaration in an interview he granted a Kano-based radio station, Pyramid Radio. He however, quickly asked the Ministry of Agriculture to present a quick plan for the purchase of surplus grains, urging religious and traditional leaders to prevail on grain exporters to curtail the exportation of grains and cereals.
Shehu had said despite being Africa’s largest producer of grains, Nigeria risked famine from early next year following a huge demand in the global market targeting the country’s surplus production. He blamed the situation to massive food leaving the shores of the country and called for it curtail.
“The huge demand for our grains in the global market is creating an excellent environment for the mindless export of Nigerian grains across our borders and unless this is curtailed, Nigerian markets will be bereft of food by January next year,” he said.
“Over the past year, providence has blessed Nigeria with bountiful harvests of grains, more than enough to feed the country and to export to other countries.
At present, there is a high demand for grains from Nigeria, from African countries as distant as Libya and Algeria, and from places as far away as Brazil.
However, the Ministry of Agriculture has raised concerns about the massive rate of exportation, which could lead to a shortage of grains in Nigeria by January,” Shehu said.
However, investigations by LEADERSHIP Sunday reveal that the warning to stop export of food especially grains has not been heeded. A tour of some Nigerian marketers in food producing states like Benue, Taraba, and Adamawa among others, indicated that the situation is worrisome as truckloads of farm produce are still leaving the shores of the states, every day.
Some marketers and residents who spoke to our correspondents confirmed that these food stuff are transported outside the shores of Nigeria. “The pay us more and since money is one of the reasons why some of us engage in farming in the first place, there is no reason why I shouldn’t sell” a farmer who prefers anonymity told our correspondent.
In Abuja, the nation’s capital, some marketers have raised alarm of increase in the purchase of grains and other food items. They said unlike in the past when the items were not sold quickly, the sales has improved drastically. The increase in price of items is also obvious due to the biting economic recession.
Chief Mrs Felicia Sani is the National President of Market Men and Women Association of Nigeria. She deals in grains and Garri, and she operates a shop in Wuye ultra-modern market of Abuja.
According to her, “there is mass purchase of food items because in the past, I used to buy several bags to sell but now, I have ordered a truck of the items which will be delivered any moment from now. Even at that, it is believed that the items would not last for days as people troop here to buy them in bulk.”
When LEADERSHIP Sunday visited some markets in Taraba State, it was observed that so many truck and Lorries trooped in to purchase surplus grains and other food items like yams, rice, to convey them out of the state in order to be stored in warehouses to save for the rainy day.
In the popular Jalingo market, the traders revealed that buyers come from Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi and other parts of the country to purchase grains and other food stuff. They said there is mass purchase, just as the price of food items is increasing.
At Kasuwan-Bera market, a trader, Mallam Inuya Alsha said due to the prediction, prices of grains and other food stuff have skyrocketed. He charged both states and federal government to collaborate to take very urgent and proactive measures capable of averting the challenge.
But then of course, other traders have an entirely different view of what constituted reasons for the looming hunger. In Apawa Market in Lau LGA of Taraba State, a yam seller, Kizito Bon is one of those who have a different view on the situation. He said the hunger may well be attributed to the current economy recession being faced in the country.
Bon was particularly worried that the mass purchase could lead to a scarcity insisting that unless measures are taken to regulate the purchase, the nation may be in for a harder times noting “the prediction could come to pass with dire consequences on us as a people”.
“On daily basis, good numbers of lorries came into the state to purchase grains, rice and other food items to an unknown destination, and with this, the country is going to face a terrible time” he stressed.
The situation is not different in Adamawa state. Buyers of grains are hoarding the produce, expecting that the price will continue to rise and they would make huge profit. Farm produce like rice, Guinea corn, maize and beans have become highly sought commodities.
It was gathered in Ngurore, Girei Song, Gombi markets that 100kg bag of maize is now sold for N11000 while 100kg of beans is selling at N19000 and Guinea corn going for N12000.
The chairman grains dealers association in Gombi LGA, Alhaji Usman Sarkin Mudu said although lorries come into the markets in the council area in droves to obviously load food items that were purchased by marketers, some farmers are hoarding the produce to later sell and make huge profit.
The scenario of mass purchase of food stuff is also very prevalent across several markets in Benue state where a visit to the Yam Zaki-Biam and Ugba yam markets in Ukum and Logo Local government areas showed several trucks seen conveying yams.
The traders said the buyers come from PortHarcourt, Abia and Anambra, as well as Onitsa.
Mr. Terver Shimave, a dealer in the yam market said “the number of trucks that come here to buy yams have increased. The price has also increase too hence there is market and buyers are coming every day. Many people have said the situation is sequel to the alarm that there will be imminent hunger in 2017.”
Some respondents who spoke to our correspondent noted that the mass purchase could well be a plot by some of the marketers behind it to stockpile the food stuffs and make brisk business in the event of a possible famine.
Meanwhile, analysts have said the federal government initiative to secure surplus food for the rainy day cannot end the imminent hunger. But according to them, government must stabilize the economy, avert leaving of food outside the shores of the country and above all, end insurgency and Fulani herdsmen attacks to avail farmers the chances to access their farms.
A moment, traders in the Nigerian markets are hoarding of farm produce and prices of the items is increasing. This is an emerging ugly trend. There is the need for Nigerians to weed off the selfish attitude of taking advantage of slightest opportunity and to be mindful that the predicted imminent hunger, when finally arrived, will affect all and sundry.
As it is, the prices of food items in the market is increasing and traders are hoarding the produce. Whether the quick plan of the federal government to buy surplus food and store in the warehouses would be workable measure to avert the predicted famine, only time shall tell.