Nigeria needs effective supply chain system to achieve food security

The focus is now on the National Assembly, with the emergence of Hon. Chike Okafor, as Chairman House Committee on Food Security and Nutrition, to provide a legislative framework for the food security of the country to be achieved.

For Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation to protect its 200 million population from hunger, the Federal Government must build a logistics infrastructure that can strengthen the effectiveness of the supply chain, logistics experts have said.

Speaking in Lagos at the public presentation of the Nigerian Logistics and Supply Chain Industry Report 2022 edition and 11th fellowship investiture & membership induction ceremony, Innocent Okuku, vice president of the West African Fertilizer Association (WAFA), said a country cannot have food security without an effective supply chain.

Okuku, who spoke on the theme, ‘Supply Chain Disruptions and Food Security: Issues and Implications,’ said supply chain and food security are interwoven because farmers cannot achieve food security without an efficient supply chain system.

He said Nigeria, which has over 35 million individuals that are food insecure, needs to ensure that farmers can access inputs and that the supply chain system must be able to move the inputs both imported and locally sourced from their locations to where farmers can access them.

According to him, the food items also need to move from the farm to the market where consumers will access them.

He said the intermodal transport system is also critical to making the supply chain system resilient, but Nigeria depends only on roads to move goods.

“Nigeria’s network of roads is not sufficient and the cost of moving farm produce by road is higher but if we have a functional rail system, the cost would be lower. We have inland waterways, but our rivers are not properly dredged to move large food items and there are a number of things that must be put in place because Nigeria has a broken supply chain system,” he said.

Okuku however said that the government needs to work on improving infrastructure, adding that the private sector will come into the country to invest in order to provide efficient services once the environment is right.

Pointing out that global disruptions in the supply chain have the capacity to affect food security as demonstrated by Covid-19 and Russia-Ukraine war, he said, local disruptions such as conflicts, sudden changes in government policy, and environmental shocks can have similar effects on food security.

Citing an example, he said, Nigeria’s rice production went up to 8 million metric tons in 2018 but the Covid-19 disruptions brought down the production volume to 4.89 million metric tons in 2020.

He listed building resilient food systems through interventions that reduce dependence on external shocks, creating buffer inventory for input and output, and strategic planning can help to the vulnerability of the national food supply.

“To improve supply chain functions, Nigeria must expand port infrastructure, and improve rail transport in order to drive down costs of logistics,” he added.

On his part, Obiora Madu, director general of ACSC, said Nigeria needs to create resilience as its supply chain has been problematic before now.

“Creating resilience is actually strengthening our supply chain. Before COVID-19, our supply chain was already problematic. The quantity of perishable foods that Nigeria loses every year either because they were unable to get to where they will be sold or lack of an effective supply chain, is unimaginable.

“Until we pay attention to the supply chain and build the necessary infrastructure, hunger is looming. Research has it that every year more people are becoming food insecure,” he added.

To him, access to transportation is critical and Nigeria doesn’t have the infrastructure needed to achieve an effective supply chain of food items.

He said the disruption that is happening in Nigeria is much greater than what is happening in Ukraine and Russia.

“There are no good roads for transportation; there is no multi-modal mode of transport. We have inland waterways, but we do not do much on water. We are not taking advantage of our position to do cargo for landlocked countries. We should have been the hub for West and Central Africa, but we are nowhere,” he explained.

Samuel Odewunmi, professor of transport and logistics at Lagos State University, said there have been many disruptions in the supply chain, the latest being fuel subsidy removal, the Russia-Ukraine war, and Covid-19.

Reviewing the report, he described it as a reference point for data to drive effective decision-making because logistics and supply chain fundamentals are indispensable.

“Today, many areas in Nigeria are in surplus of agricultural produce but they cannot get to town. Banditry and violence are disruptions to farming in Nigeria, which is why the report is calling for a supply chain system that is resilient and can withstand shocks,” he said.

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