COVID-19: AFEX, others, to implement FG’s programme to combat food insecurity

AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited has expressed readiness to execute Federal Government Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan (AFJP) in collaboration with other stakeholders.

The AFEX Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ayodeji Balogun, made this known at the launch of the programme in Katsina on Thursday.

He said the programme was meant to roll-out a structured plan to combat food insecurity in Nigeria.

He added that the measure was introduced to tackle the issue of food security, which had been further triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to him, the programme is targeted at over 2 million smallholder farmers spread across 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

He noted that food security was a vital agenda on a national and global level.

He added that COVID-19 had presented unusual shocks to the country’s food systems requiring adequate planning and response to ensure resilience and recovery.

Balogun disclosed that the AFJP was aimed at producing 10 million metric tons of food including carbohydrates, animal protein and edible oils within 12 months.

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According to him, with the realities of the pandemic testing our food systems, it is up to all players in the agricultural value chain to intervene in ways that are sustainable.

“The Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan provides structured production support by giving zero-interest input financing options to farmers.

“It enables them to access fertilisers and seeds for their production activities, which will result in increased yields at harvest time.

“The programme will reach 2.4 million farmers, producing over 10 million Metric Tons, and providing food for 100 million households,” he said.

According to him, AFEX is fully committed to repositioning agriculture in the country.

Balogun added that AFEX had in the past five years working with different stakeholders in that regard, stressing that it had worked in a consortium with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Balogun also noted that the company had worked with other public and private sector partners including National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), and Sasakawa.

According to him, the partnership has helped to build operational capacity to deliver improved financial inclusion, farmer training and access to finance and markets.

“The programmes run under this framework have improved the capacity of farmers across Nigeria, enabling year on year growth in yields and productivity and this can be doubled down in executing the AFJP programme.

“AFEX will be contributing 750,000 farmers to the AFJP programme through this consortium of partners that include AGRA, NAERLS and Sasakawa.

“The AFJP programme will allow private players, like AFEX, with access to a large number of farmers, to collaborate, sharing knowledge and technology, to drive the end goal of food security in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The private sector is also being incorporated into the programme as off-takers for the produce, which will ensure that farmers can access a market at harvest time.”

Balogun said the coordinated efforts of the AFJP programme would ensure linkages for farmers with quality inputs and support through the production cycle and access to the market at harvest.

This he said would benefit the country’s drive to be food secure, and create and protect jobs in the sector.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the AFJP programme will be operationalised through a collaboration of the Federal Government with various state governments.

The programme will also be operationalised through a collaboration of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and various private sector agriculture service providers.

Meanwhile, AFEX, established in 2014, operates 45 warehouses in Nigeria’s key grain-producing areas and accounts for 100,000 MT of total national storage capacity.

Since 2014, the exchange has reached 106,000 farmers and traded 126,400 metric tonnes of commodities with a total turnover of N14.1 billion.

AFEX was established to drive financial inclusion for rural communities, develop technology for data collection, market access and introduce products that de-risk the sector and enabling deployment of capital.

(NAN)

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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