Prof. Veronica Obatolu, the Executive Director, Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, says Covid-19 remains a threat to food security due to the negative effects on production and research.
Obatolu told Our Correspondent on Thursday in Ibadan that the pandemic was raging at a time the country was entering the new cropping season.

She said the effects on production would be immediate as manifested in reduction in supply with an increase in demand and subsequent increase in cost and reduced accessibility due to limited poor crop production plan and execution.

Obatolu said agriculture as a labour-intensive enterprise involves various stakeholders who were now negatively impacted on by the lockdown.

“Markets also are closed down while the effect on research may not be noticed now although there is serious negative effect on the agricultural value chain system.

“Agricultural research is time set, requires constant periodic observations and support services such as constant power supply among other conditions.

“In the absence of any of the required conditions at any point, the validity and accuracy of the result of such research if not terminated cannot be guaranteed, resulting in loss of time and resources and reduction in research output.

“The longer the scourge of the pandemic, the longer the curtailment strategies and the greater the negative impact on research activities and research output of the period,” she said.

She further said that the consequences of these were food scarcity, high cost as well as poor distribution.

” Based on these, food crisis looms in Nigeria unless immediate measures are taken to keep food supply chain active to reduce the effects of the pandemic across the food production system,” she said.

While commending efforts to contain the spread of the virus, Obatolu urged government at all levels to provide facilities and equipment for personnel involved in containing the pandemic.

Also speaking, Dr Idris Badiru, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development at the University of Ibadan, said the effect of the lockdown on the agricultural sector could vary from one enterprise to the other.

“It will definitely have a negative effect on food security.

“The gravity will however depend on the enterprise, this is definitely not the time to hoard produce in a bid to make excessive profits,” he said.

Badiru called on all stakeholders to see the lockdown as a trying period and therefore strive to be more patriotic.

To survive the pandemic, he said the agricultural sector must have access to a fair share of the economic stimulus package of the Federal Government.

“Agricultural loans need to be restructured in line with the realities of the time and mass mediated extension services needed to be fully deployed now to reduce physical contact with the farmers among other strategies.

“Farmers should endeavor to practise social distancing as much as possible whenever they are meeting with their clients; we should develop online marketing channels this time for produce to reduce physical contacts in future.

“The agric sector will be affected negatively because some inputs may not be readily available as they were before the outbreak due to logistic constraints.

“We appreciate the government’s efforts in containing the spread of the pandemic so far.

” It means that they are taking the livelihood of the people into consideration.

” We should all cooperate to survive this trying time,” he said. Nigerian Pilot