As high cost of food prices remains unabated across the country, an agric investor, John Tehinse, Tuesday, urged government at all levels and development partners to grow food Micro Small and Medium Enterprises, MSMEs, to tackle food insecurity.
Speaking with Vanguard in an interview, Tehinse who also is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Funta Services Nigeria Limited, expressed dissatisfaction over poor results from government policies, programmes and interventions over the years.
He said: “No, this is because despite various government interventions, the Nigerian food industry has not been very effective in reducing the widespread food insecurity, poverty and malnutrition, chronic food shortages, erratic and poor-quality food supply.
“Nigeria remains a food-deficit nation. Government policies and programmes should enhance a better synergy and linkages between agricultural production, food processing and other value addition strategies.
“Nigeria today is food deficient nation, relying on food imports to fill the huge gap in the supply and demand equation. Although governments in the last three decades have tried to reverse this ugly situation, the efforts are yet to yield desirable results.
“The rural areas where a larger segment of the country’s population live face enormous challenges bringing about a corresponding decline in agricultural production.
“It is crystal clear therefore that agriculture alone can neither meet the national food demand nor sustain overall development of rural economy. However, government focus on the development of rural Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) clusters can occupy a unique and significant position in a nation’s food supply chain by bringing stability to the agricultural sector through the interconnection and synergy with rural smallholder farmers.
“Governments must realize that until and unless the food MSMEs are able to establish and maintain an intimate and symbiotic relationship with agricultural sector and larger food processing subsector of the food industry, local production of food and food products to meet local needs and for export market will continue to be a mirage.”
Also expressing concern over protracted issues on access to finance, mechanization, fertilizer, technology, post-harvest losses, lack of value addition, insecurity, policy somersault, and others he said all these are traceable to absence of food MSMEs which have not been considered for growing and developing the nation’s food system
“A key contributory factor to this ugly situation is the near absence of food MSMEs to create sustainable linkages and synergy between the agricultural production and food industry sectors.
“There is need for government at all levels to promote rural-based Micro, Small and Medium-Scale Food Processing Enterprises (Food MSMEs) which has the capacity to provide value-added products, income and employment in the rural areas, where majority of citizens live, strong backward linkage to primary agricultural production, create a source of exportable products to earn foreign exchange, provide training and other benefits to unskilled labour and stimulates increased agricultural production and processed foods of exportable quality”, he added.
On assessing 2022 budgetary allocation to the agric sector, he (Tehinse) said the allocation is not different from what past administrations’ despite the Buhari-led administration is saying will diversify the economy through agriculture.
“For many years, Nigeria policy has been skewed towards agricultural production without concomitant attention to value addition leading to high postharvest losses and loss of revenue arising from sale of agricultural produce in their primary form.
“Unfortunately, the current 2022 budget for the agricultural sector is not significantly different from its predecessors”, he stated.