The agony of Nigeria: food crisis in a deadly pandemic? Haruna Gado

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Nigeria, the most populous Nation in Africa, and coincidentally, the largest economy on the continent. With an estimated population of 207,110,363 as of Saturday, September 12, 2020, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data, the country has the largest market and labour supplies in Africa. With a great potential in agriculture and the current unfortunate incidence of food crisis in an era of a deadly covid-19 pandemic, this agony of Nigeria must be given the needed attention.

According to the latest published data by World Bank on arable and agricultural lands (World Bank, 2017), Nigeria’s arable land (hectares), arable land (% of land use) and agricultural land (% of land area), were estimated at 34,000,000, 37.331 and 77.736, respectively.

In terms of crop production, Nigeria leads other countries in the world in cassava and yam productions. For instance, 59 million tonnes of cassava (approximately 20% of global production) comes from Nigeria. In 2013, the cassava export (3.2 million tonnes) earned the country $136 million, according to the Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). In the area of yam production, Nigeria produces 60% of global production, but the export potential of the crop is very low, because of quality and safety concerns (FAO, 2019).

In terms of production of cereals like millet (according to World Atlas ranking), Nigeria is second to India, with an estimated 5 million tonnes of annual production. Nigeria, tops all countries in Africa, in sorghum production, and the 3rd largest in the world. FAOSTAT data estimates the average production of sorghum in Nigeria to be 7.4 million metric tonnes, almost meeting India’s, which ranks second to USA, with 7.5 million metric tonnes.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in terms of animal production by inventory, Nigeria is the 14th in the world with an estimated 20 million heads, 1.36% of total world production.

The above achievements chalked by Nigeria in the agricultural sector are not mean achievements. But why is Nigeria hungry, in an era of a deadly disease? This is a billion dollar question!

The irony of the above achievements is that, United Arab Emirates (UAE) with estimated arable land (hectare), arable land (% of land use) and agricultural land (% of land area) of 44, 500, 0.627 and 5.475, are now supporting Nigeria with emergency food supplies.

Earlier this year, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) watch-list placed Nigeria amongst the top five (5) countries in the world likely to face food and humanitarian crises. On the September 10 2020, the National Food Security Council, held an emergency meeting to find solution to the looming food crisis in the country. The meeting was chaired by the President, H.E Muhammadu Buhari. This confirms the IRC’s predictions. Nigeria indeed needs the world’s support.

With a 50 kg bag of rice selling at N34, 000 ($89) as of July 2020, up from about N26, 500 ($70) in January, according to Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, it is about time Nigeria calls for humanitarian support from the United Nations, to reduce the burden of the already paralyzed economy, as a result of covid-19.

Literature cited

World Bank (2017). Retrieved on the 13th September from:

This article was written by Haruna Gado Yakubu. He is a Research Fellow at CEBSAR-AFRICA and a PhD Student at Szent (St.) Istvan University, Kaposvar Campus, Hungary.

Photo source: Aljazeera


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