By Edwin Nwanojuo
THE Director General of Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr Vincent Isegbe said that a sum N50 billion would be needed in Nigeria annually for the next 5 years to address the issues surrounding plant health.
Dr Isegbe disclosed this in Abuja on the occasion of the formal launch of activities to herald the International Year of Plant Health 2020.
According to him, plant pest damages 40 per cent of global food production, while plant disease destroys 10 per cent of world crop, which means that the combine effect cuts global crop yield.
Dr Isegbe said human existence on this planet is sustained by plant functions. He noted that Plants furnishes human with fresh air and food. They (plant) produce the oxygen humans breathe and over 80 per cent of the food humans eat, and the feed we rear our livestock on.
His words: Plant pests damage 40% of global food production and plant diseases destroy 10% of world food. In other words, the combined effect of plant pests and diseases cuts global crop yield by half. The implication of this significant reduction in food production is that less food is available to meet the dietary needs of millions of human beings.
“The threat of plant pests and diseases is exacerbated by transborder trade. In these days of easier international movement and transportation, a wide range of plant pests and diseases are able to hitchhike to new frontiers. They are borne by the envelopes of infected fruits, crops, seeds and packaging containers. And once exotic pests and diseases are introduced to a new environment, they tend to establish quickly and spread rapidly; wrecking immense havoc on the local agricultural economy.
“The international community declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health in order to increase awareness among policy makers and the public about the importance of plant health and the need to protect plant resources for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”.
He, however, said “I have to emphasize that this call for investment in plant health in Nigeria is not a plea that should be mere tokenism. Tokenism will do little or nothing because plant health is a capital intensive affair. We need much more than the traditional miserly allocations to plant health to reposition our plant healthcare system. At the federal level, we need, at the very minimum, an annual investment of 50 billion naira annually for the next 5 years to scale our plant health infrastructure to the proportion of our immediate needs.
“Our investment in plant health will be an investment in social security. It will enable us combat hunger, malnutrition and poverty. With healthy plants, there will be food for all; everyone will be adequately nourished; the income and quality of life of farming households will rise; and more people will find employment in spin-off activities across the value chain”
He further stated that plant pests and diseases damages crops and may cause crop failure, in extreme cases. He added that their devastative impact leads to food scarcity, sharp increase in food prices and instability in the food market as well as the agro-allied industries.
Dr Isegbe maintained that plant pests and diseases rob farmers of income and hard work, they instigate system-wide poverty, hunger and malnutrition. He added that plant pests and diseases are equal opportunity enemies, they make victims of entire society.
“The global population is projected to reach 9 billion by year 2050. Plant health is the key to meeting the tremendous challenge of feeding that large population. Without a rich base of healthy plants, the population will outstrip food production, which will throw the world into a Malthusian crisis.
“Nigerian population is projected to reach 236 million by 2030 and 410 million by 2050, leapfrogging us to the third largest country in the world. So we have an urgent imperative to begin to build a robust plant health system that can support the anticipated population explosion.
“In the very least, we have to improve our capacity to feed ourselves on a sustainable basis. This means that we must move speedily to adopt a forward-looking plant health policy and massively invest in the upgrade and expansion of our plant health infrastructure. If we are remiss in doing the needful in the run-up to 2050, we will be setting ourselves up for a potential food crisis.
“We cannot afford to leave plant health in the back burner. We need to rethink our scant regard for plant health and make it a priority. All development and economic policies must give preeminence to plant health. In addition, the annual budgets of the federal, state and local governments should accord meaningful allocations to plant health”, he added.