An annual investment of N50 billion over the next five years is needed to scale up plant health infrastructure to meet the demand for food and export in the country, the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) has said.
The agency said Nigeria’s population is projected to reach 236 million people by 2030 and 410 million by 2050, saying hence there is an urgent need to begin to build a robust plant health system that can support the anticipated population increase.
The Director-General NAQS, Dr Vincent Isiegbe, disclosed this at the formal launch of activities to herald the international year of plant health 2020.
He explained that plant infrastructure encompasses agricultural machinery needed on the field, diagnostic equipment in the labs, agro-chemical inputs needed to ensure plant health so as to avoid invasion by pest and diseases, improved seeds and fertilizer.
He lamented that pests damage about 40 percent of global food production and plant diseases destroy about 10 percent of world foods, saying the implication are the significant reduction in food production and failure to meet the dietary needs of the human population.
“I have to emphasize that this call for investment in plant health in Nigeria is not a plea that should be taken for tokenism, as tokenism will do little or nothing because plant health is capital intensive. We need more than the traditional miserly allocations to re-position our plant healthcare system,” he said.
Isiegbe noted that plant pests and diseases not only caused crop failure in extreme cases, but also food scarcity, sharp increase in food prices, instability in the food market and agro-allied industries, instigation poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
He stated that for the nation to improve its capabilities to feed itself, there was the need to speedily adopt a forward-looking plant health policy and massively invest in the upgrade and expansion of the plant health infrastructure, saying, “if we renege in doing this, the nation might be setting itself for potential food crisis.”
He also stated that “Our investment in plant health will be an investment in social security. It would enable us to combat hunger, malnutrition and poverty.
“With healthy plants, there will be food for all; everyone will be adequately nourished and there would be improved incomes for farmers. And this will create more employment opportunities.”