The Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development (FMARD) through the Food and Strategic Reserve Department (FSRD) said it would maintain the national strategic food reserve stock by providing first-line food relief in emergencies to enhance food security, stabilise prices of food commodities, encourage food production and reduce post-harvest losses.
The director, FSRD, Engr. Sule Haruna stated this during a workshop programme for agriculture correspondents themed “Deepening the understanding of activities and programme of FMARD”.
The department operates through five distinct, established divisions – price stabilization, strategic reserve, emergency food supply and logistics, nutrition and food access, as well as the school feeding programme – to carry out its mandate.
“FSRD is the apex of the three tiers of the storage programme of the Federal Government launched in 1987. The department is expected to hold five per cent of the annual food production in the country as ‘strategic food reserve’ stock, the state governments [hold] 10 per cent as buffer stock and the private sector/farmers 85 per cent as a part of the farm/domestic storage component.
“The department carries out its mandates with two major storage facilities – 48 units of community warehouses of 2,000MT each and 33 silo complexes that, when fully completed, will have a combined total storage capacity of 1.3MMT,” Haruna explained.
Haruna said that the department has lived up to the mandate and expectation given to them, considering the massive intervention they made during emergencies.
“The core mandate of the department is the construction and maintenance of food storage facilities, including equipment and machines, stocking and management of national strategic food reserve stock, acting as the first line of food relief during emergencies and stabilising prices of food commodities.
“The entire concession programme is targeted at increasing the capacity utilisation of the silo complexes, creating wealth and jobs for the citizenry, increasing farmers’ income through increased private sector production and generating revenue for the Federal Government,” he added.
According to him, the department uses the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Security (DSS) for distribution and transparency.
Earlier, the permeant secretary of the ministry, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe, represented by Engr. Udo Daniel stressed that the ministry has the mandate to achieve.
“The ministry has a large mandate, which covers food security, employment generation and wealth creation, agricultural business activities and rural development, among others. In the discharge of these responsibilities, the ministry has made giant strides towards diversifying the country’s economy.
“There are numerous, ongoing projects and programmes by various departments of the ministry. In the course of this workshop, you will be let into some of these. Various policies and programs have been enunciated on agriculture. [These programmes are] to drive some of the agricultural value chains, including livestock development and animal health and welfare, animal health delivery services, provision of affordable farm inputs to small-holder farmers and measures to mitigate the effect of the recent flood incidents, among others. Certainly, some of you have ‘covered’ the ministry for a long time while others have not.
“However, you need to be abreast of new policies, programmes and projects that the ministry is involved in. This will place you in a better position to educate Nigerians on the giant strides the present administration has made in the agricultural sector of the economy.
“The workshop will also provide you with a platform to interact with the ministry and clarify topical issues that may be of concern to you”.
In his remarks, the ministry’s director of information, Dr. Joel Oruche, disclosed that the workshop will emphasise the importance which the present administration places on agricultural development and the attainment of self-sufficiency in food and nutrition, as well as staple commodities for export.
“The importance of agriculture in our national economy cannot be over-emphasised, especially with the global economic challenges. There is, therefore, the need to mobilise, educate and sensitise the Nigerian populace on the need to embrace agriculture. This workshop, therefore, could not have come at a better time.
“As this workshop offers a deeper understanding and wider knowledge of the activities, programmes and, indeed, the achievements of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development (FMARD), may we let Nigerians and, indeed, the world know the efforts being made to achieve food and nutrition sufficiency, to stem hunger, starvation and malnutrition in our country.
“You will learn first-hand from our resource persons, the ministry’s robust and impressive programmes designed to make agriculture the mainstay of our economy, thereby improving the living standard of Nigerians.”
Oruche tasked the media to encourage and sensitise people about farming, as “the press we know possesses enormous power that can either destroy or build. I will rather enjoin you to channel this power towards sensitising our people to take agriculture, so that, together, we can feed ourselves.
“It is a fact that the press has contributed immensely to the development of the country. As a body (agric correspondents) you have done so much to publicise activities of the ministry and continue to do so.
“It is expected that, through your constructive engagements with the ministry – such as we are witnessing today – you would be in a vantage position to educate our farmers on different farming methods, and varieties of farm inputs available to them and how these can be accessed,” he added.