The losses are currently estimated at N3.5tr yearly, with each state and their Local Councils, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), losing about N94.5b yearly.
One of the major challenges facing the country’s agricultural sector that has defied all possible solutions over the years is the issue of post-harvest losses.
Recently, stakeholders at the National Stakeholders Consultative Meeting on the 2024 Agriculture Budget, in Lagos, advocated the introduction of Community Grain Bank as an initiative to curb the menace of post-harvest losses across the country.
Community grain bank is a system where the grains produced locally are stored and distributed to participating farmers as seed at planting time. The banks are managed by farmers and if properly run, they alleviate shortages of seed and ensure timeliness of seed supply to rural farmers. They can also act as a safety bank for seed, especially in times of drought.
During the consultative meeting, the stakeholders suggested that the small modular processing and storage facilities in communities should be promoted as an innovative approach to reduce post-harvest losses in the 2024 agric budget and subsequent years, as the larger Staple Crops Processing Zones (SCPZ) are most likely not to reach remote areas.
To many, this is a right step in the right direction if the government at all levels can embrace the initiative, as it will boost the country’s food security dream.
The former Chairman, Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) – Agric Sector/Managing Director of Bama Farms, Prince Wale Oyekoya, confirmed that the initiative would address the post-harvest debacles.
He said: “Community Grain Bank (CGB) will reduce post-harvest losses, which is the major problem of most farmers. CGB is a form of storage facility like silos for grains like maize, sorghum, rice, etc., but before CGB could work, we have to increase our production.
“There are so many demands for our grains from human to animal, which put pressure on the availability of the little grains we produce. Animals such as poultry birds, consume more of the grains such as maize than other livestock. The current price of maize now – N550, 000 per tonne, is very alarming that poultry farmers cannot afford it, whereas, the price was between the region ofN45, 000 per tonne two years ago. What went wrong in the last two years is the government’s policy summersault and lack of people-oriented policies.”
He lamented that insecurity poses another major problem for farmers, as clashes with herders have driven many away from their farms for fear of attack and losing their lives.
“CGB can be used to solve food crisis in the country if properly harnessed and funded with improved seeds, technology and fertiliser. When production is increased, we will be able to store extra food crops in the silos or the grain banks.
“This initiative is feasible if the government is sincere, especially the state governments. The Land Use Act of 1978 gives power to the state government to manage and set aside some of the lands for farm settlement. The CGB can only be feasible if the state governments and local councils are put in charge for the implementation. Farming should be done locally and in the rural areas,” he said.
A farmer based in Osogbo, Osun State, Mr. Mobolaji Olusola, who described it as a welcome development if embraced, said the community grain bank initiative has been a good success in other countries as farmers are sure of basic sales if they can’t sell their harvests to private sectors with huge cash.
He confirmed that the grain banks, if adopted and properly implemented, could solve the problem of food crisis in the country, noting that the banks would need to be installed in at least every major local councils in each state.
Olusola noted that anything that falls short of that, including poor logistics would erode the expected results.
He however, expressed fear that the initiative may not work in the country, considering the past failed government policies, coupled with politics played with government policies in the sector.
“The initiative won’t work in Nigeria. Politics would come into play, farmers would be owed monies, the project would be a white elephant project, government/private partnership, where government does not have administrative power, but only single majority share might be a stumbling block.”