Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has linked the growing activities of bandits and kidnappers to the unemployment situation in the country.

Obasanjo spoke during his address at the 9th International Trade Exhibition & Conference on Agrofood, Plastics, Printing, and Packaging which was held in Lagos on Tuesday.

The trade fair was jointly organised by FairTrade Messe and the Organisation for Technology Advancement of Cold Chain in West Africa.

“Of course, if we are able to achieve this, it will improve our security. Part of our insecurity are men and women that are not properly engaged. If we are able to give them employment, there will be less of them getting involved in banditry, in kidnapping and in doing various other criminal activities that they get involved in,” Obasanjo noted.

The former president, who described himself as ‘a mad man for agriculture,’ said there was need to promote agribusiness for food security, nutrition security, employment, wealth creation, poverty elimination and income generation, particularly, foreign exchange.

According to him, the drive toward food security in the country must encapsulate food availability, affordability and accessibility.

Obasanjo said, “A friend of mine said to me, you must be a madman. I asked him what he meant, and he said if I was not a mad man I would not have gone into agriculture. So, I am a madman for agriculture. When it has to do with agriculture, you can be sure that when you call me, I will answer.

“Food security starts with availability. We must be able to produce enough. Then there is affordability. We must be able to get everybody who needs food to be able to get the food that they need. Then there is accessibility. We must get food to where it is needed.

“Almost 40 per cent of our food go to waste after cultivation. So, food security and nutrition security makes agribusiness important.”

Speaking further, Obasanjo noted that one of the most potent means of curbing youth emigration, unemployment and insecurity is to get more young people to embrace agriculture.

He regretted that Nigerian youths often prefer to explore opportunities in the entertainment industry, which underscores the need to make agriculture more glamorous.

He also called on policymakers at all levels to ensure policy consistency that would allow farmers to set short and long term targets without worrying about possible policy somersaults which may topple their plans.

A key part of this, he said, involved making single-digit loans available to farmers, as no agribusiness can produce profitably with double digit loans.

He added, “First is employment, with our teeming population and the problem we have with our youths going over the desert and risking their lives at the Mediterranean will stop. What can we do to give them enough employment at home?

“The area that is sure to provide employment for our teeming youth population is agriculture. When you talk about agriculture, not many of them will want to come to the farm, they will rather go into the music that they do now. We have to make agriculture glamorous because these youths, they make money that way (through music), and then you are asking them to come to the farm. They won’t want to.

The Managing Director of Fairtrade Messe, Paul Maerz, said this year’s edition of the event features over 140 exhibitors from across the globe, showcasing tailored products and solutions for the Nigerian market.

He said the exhibition was germane because Nigeria’s investments in food & packaging technology are soaring, positioning the nation as a key player in Africa, which trails only South Africa.

He noted that despite significant investments in local food production, Nigeria remains one of Africa’s foremost food importers and food.

He said, “As we gather here, we embark on a journey fueled by innovation, collaboration, and shared aspirations for the advancement of Nigeria’s agrofood and plastics industries. With each passing edition, our commitment to excellence has only grown stronger, and we are proud to present the elevated standards set for this year’s event.

“As Africa’s largest economy continues to invest in agrofood and plastprintpack solutions, products, and technologies, we stand at the threshold of unprecedented opportunities for all market participants.

“Nigeria’s food production has witnessed a remarkable surge of 40 per cent in recent years, from €26bn in 2016 to €36bn in 2020, projected to rise by 48 per cent between 2021 and 2024, from €42bn to €63bn. Imports are surging further, but Nigeria emerges as a leader in plastics technology investments, with remarkable growth rates.”

On his part, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Abubakar Kyari lamented that post-harvest losses remain a pressing concern in Nigeria, with estimates suggesting that up to 40 per cent of our agricultural produce is lost annually due to inadequate storage and transportation facilities.

This alarming statistic, he said, represents not only a substantial economic loss to our farmers but also poses a grave threat to food security and nutrition in our nation.

Noting that Nigeria, like many other West African nations, grapples with significant post-harvest losses, exacerbated by inadequate cold chain facilities and inefficient supply chain systems, Kyari said it was imperative to underscore the pivotal role that cold chain infrastructure plays in safeguarding the integrity of our agricultural produce and ensuring food security for the populace.

“Cold chain infrastructure, encompassing refrigeration, transportation, and storage facilities, plays a crucial role in preserving the quality and nutritional value of agricultural produce from farm to fork.

“In this regard, the Nigerian government is committed to fostering partnerships and collaborations with both public and private stakeholders to strengthen our cold chain networks,” he said.

The ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Wouter Plomp, pledged the commitment of the European nation in strengthening ties with Nigeria to ensure food security in the country.

He noted that agriculture was a key component of the Nigerian economy; hence, it was important to create an environment that allows agriculture to thrive.


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