Let Us Return To Farming- Varsity Don Begs A’Ibom Govt

Farm produce
Farm produce

An imminent food shortage in the country caused by the ravaging COVID-19 may spell doom for more than five million Akwa Ibom people.

A Nigerian university lecturer who expressed this concern Tuesday on Inspiration 105.9 FM, Uyo, said the situation may worsen in the next six months as the World Health Organisation is still searching for a cure to the deadly COVID-19.

Chris Ekong, a professor of Economics and currently the Director of International Programmes, University of Uyo, Uyo in Akwa Ibom State was talking on the topic: Informal Economic Sector In A Pandemic Era lamented that most foodstuffs such as foo foo and garri in the state come from Odukpani in Cross River and Edo states.

He wondered what will befall the Akwa Ibom people if the state government does not take proactive measures to boost food production in the state in case other states decide to shut down their borders as a way of curtailing the spread of the virus.

While encouraging the indigenes to embark on aggressive food production to avert hunger, he called on the government to provide soft loans, farming inputs and other facilities to the local farmers as a way of encouraging them to scale up from subsistence to large scale farming.

However, the state government allocated N12.371 billion for Agriculture in its 2020 budget, though the amount has been sliced due to the crude oil crash.

For the 2019  Budget, the state government announced that it refurbished Cassava Processing factories in Ikot Okudom in Eket, Nung Udoe in Ibesikpo-Asutan and Ikot Ekang in Abak leased them to private operators for the production of high-quality garri, odourless foo foo and cassava flour.

Consequently, the government said this helped to crash the price from about three cups for N200 to the current price of N200 fetching between nine to 12 cups of garri.

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Again, the government said it procured 600,000 bags of fertilizer to farmers, planted 500 citrus seedlings, 600 hybrids plantain suckers and 1,000 pineapple suckers at the Horticulture Garden, Wellington Bassey Way End in Uyo.

But an investigation by Straightnews shows that before the pandemic lockdown, three cups of garri cost N100 in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom capital but during the lockdown and till now, two and half cups of garri go for N100 in Uyo.

Foodstuffs dealer living along High Tension, Uyo, Mrs Eno Udoh says that she buys garri and tubers of yams from Odukpani in Cross River and tubers of yams from Northern parts of Cross River.