Nigeria is richly endowed with enormous flora and fauna. Therefore, saying Nigeria is a blessed country is simply stating the obvious and all it requires is a visit across the states to see truly how blessed the country is and in terms of natural endowment like land, water, and good environment.
For instance, each region ranging from the semi-arid lands of the far north through the guinea savanna of the north central to the thick mangrove forests of the south of the country cultivate varieties of fruits such as Apple, pawpaw,mango,watermelon, plantain, pineapple, grape, tangerine, almonds, coconut, guava, and and food crops such as; Rice, millet,corn, beans, and yam, to mention but a few. These crops are harvested in abundance across the country. Each region of the country produces at least three of these seasonal fruits in commercial quantity
But the irony, however, remains that all this remains a mirage. Because the country's population is a smidge over 200 million and its food(crop) production increase have not kept pace with population growth, thereby resulting in an increased rate of food importations annually. And most of these foods can otherwise be grown locally. Although Nigeria's food import bill fell from $665.4m in January 2015 to $160.4m as of October 2018 the country is not food secured as wastage still remains high in production areas, change of government and government policies, and insurgency amongst other challenges still perturb the whole agricultural sector.
In Nigeria, there are over 30 million hectares of farmland under cultivation season to season, falling substantially short of the estimated 78.5 million hectares of land that is required for farming to feed her growing population. The country’s agricultural sector is dominated by smallholder farmers who work an average of 4–5 acres each, under rain-fed conditions. Most of them lack knowledge of modern practices, have insufficient capital and own little or no equipment of their own. As a result, adoption of modern research findings and technologies are limited
Nigeria is the largest rice producing country in West Africa, and simultaneously one of the largest importers of rice in the world. Rice is an essential cash crop in Nigeria and it generates more income for Nigerian farmers than any other cash crop in the country. Food business Africa estimates show that the country requires 7.4 million tons of rice annually, but is only able to produce just about 4.78 million tons, thus filling the gap with import. Wheat also have a domestic consumption estimated to be about 5.06 million tones but the country produces a paltry 600, 000 tons. The demand is driven mainly by various types of wheat required for the production of white, hard and durum for bread, biscuits, and semovita.
The country is the largest producer of cassava in the world, with about 50 million metric tons annually from a cultivated area of about 3.7 million hectares. Nigeria accounts for cassava production of up to 20 percent of the world, about 34 percent of Africa and about 46 percent of West Africa.
Like Cassava, the country also has self-sufficiency in the production of yams. The nation requires 39 million tons annually but produces 37 million tons. Whereas the demand for tomato is 2.2 million tons but the actual amount produced locally is 1.5 million tons. But over 700, 000 tons is lost to post-harvest deterioration.
In addition to all this, Nigeria is the 3rd largest producer of millet in the world, 2nd largest producer of sweet potatoes and the worlds 4th largest producer of groundnut and cocoa.
While admitting that Nigeria is self-sufficient or rather close to being self-sufficient, it is imperative to note that food self-sufficiency is not an essential precondition for food security, therefore proper attention to market access, especially for smallholder farmers is needed.
The government and private sector need to join efforts to develop ways to enhance cassava’s competitiveness in the international market and improve the efficiency of domestic rice production and processing. Also, a range of policies and initiatives to strengthen cassava and rice value chains, from production to marketing should be put in place.
Finally, if all these are implemented, the last challenge to overcome would be to improve post-harvest processes, develop proper transportation networks to ensure timely delivery and increasing the fund allocation to the agricultural sector in the National budget as Agriculture is the major driver of the National GDP.
What do you think about Nigeria feeding herself? Do you think Nigeria can be food secured before 2050?