The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, has raised the alarm that the prices of food items may increase further and more Nigerians may go hungry due to the destruction of farm produce by quelea birds and locusts from Niger Republic.Ogbeh said the pests had started attacking farms in some local councils in Kebbi, Zamfara, Sokoto, Jigawa, Abia, Kano, Borno, Yobe, Benue, Gombe, Adamawa and Katsina states.
During an emergency meeting with agriculture commissioners from the states affected on Monday in Abuja, Ogbeh expressed fear that with the current high prices of food and now the reported attacks on farmlands by locusts and quelea birds, the scarcity of food may worsen in the country.
According to the minister, the masses are already talking on radio and television that they are hungry and angry.
“The rate of poverty has tripled around 50 per cent as we all know from the text messages we receive everyday for financial support and the account numbers we get on our phones. You see widows with four or five children complaining that they have not eaten for days, because right now urban poverty is worse than rural poverty.
“Please Nigerians it is time to look for a better alternative and that is why we launched the Green Alternative. We were there before we walked away, now is the time to come back to it,” he stated.
The agric minister said: “We know how dangerous quelea birds and locusts are. If they arrive, within hours and days they would wipe out everything the farmers have planted.
“We already have a maize crisis. We may have food problems if these pests attacked further. We cannot afford this.”
Ogbeh added: “You can imagine if the rice, maize, sorghum, millet farms are destroyed by these pests, this country would be in terrible food crisis.”
He disclosed that the Federal Government would partner the government of Niger Republic to get an aircraft, which would be deployed to fumigate farmlands in the states bordering the two countries.