As Nigeria continues to grapple with post-harvest losses in the agricultural sector, the government agency saddled with the responsibility of dealing with these wastages, Nigerian Stored Product Research Institute (NSPRI), has chosen to focus on more mundane things instead of tackling that which is its mandate.
In the 2018 National Budget, the institute which is based in Ilorin, has proposed to spend N1,350,000,000 (N1.35bn), out of a capital expenditure envelope of N6,758,273,614 (about N6.8bn) on constructing, fabricating and installing solar streetlights in different parts of the country.
As identified by the Civic Media Lab, the institute has a total of 64 project proposals, out of which there are 36 questionable items. They include 10 solar street light projects; 12 training and empowerment programmes in various wards and constituencies; 10 projects for supply of farm equipment to several local governments and two for the provision of solar boreholes to identified precincts.
A training related project, which appeared to tally with the agency’s core functions, was also inserted twice with different codes ERGP445000964 and ERGP445000966 at N40 million each.
Just as was observed in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Headquarters 2018 budget, line items with bogus descriptions found their way into NSPRI’s 2018 spending plan. The titles and locations of the intended infrastructure are incomplete. For Instance, in line item: ERGP445000960, The only project description given was solar streetlight with amount of N500 million. It is the same issues with project codes ERGP2115901 and ERGP445000934; no proper description was given but both will cost N100 million and N150 million respectively.
“Reducing post-harvest losses by ensuring the quality, safety and availability of agricultural produce has been the mission of the Institute,” says NSPRI on its website. According to the website, the mandate is to:
“Carry out research into bulk storage problem of export commodities and local food crop and in particular it shall conduct research into: improvement and maintenance of the quality of bulk commodity crops including cocoa, groundnuts, palm produce; improvement and maintenance of the quality of local food crops including cereals, grains, pulses, tubers and any other local commodity under bulk storage; special studies such as stored products pests, pesticide formulations and residue and mycotoxin surveys; provision of advice and training of extension workers in problems associated with stored products and materials in storage structures, new insecticides, new items of equipment and techniques; and any other related matters as may be determined from time to time by the Institute.”
None of the line items flagged, however, tell this story. Rather, the NSPRI has concerned itself with these sort of activities for 2018:
Vocation training on household products for youth and women empowerment in Ikirun, Osun State (ERGP445000933) for N120m
Purchase and supply of mini buses in Mbak Obio Itam, Itu lga, Akwa Ibom State (ERGP445000963) for N15m
Meanwhile, at a recent event, Country Director of Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Michael Ojo revealed that preliminary research has put the value of post-harvest losses (PHL) in Nigeria at N10 billion.
Aside from budgeting almost N1.4 billion on solar streetlights; N1.5 billion was also set-aside for misaligned training and empowerment programmes; N1.6 billion was kept for purchasing/supplying buses, tractors, fertilizers, empowerment and agricultural equipment and N130 million was quoted for providing/constructing two solar boreholes.
In plain terms, this means, the institute responsible for research aimed at reducing losses in commodities in bulk storage and adding value to crops exported by Nigeria, spent N4.6bn, on line items that are way off its directive.
Emmanuel Ijewere, Vice-President Nigeria Agribusiness Group, said the government failed to carry stakeholders in the industry along in the preparation of their budget.
“Many years ago, a Nigerian said, ‘you should not shave a man’s head behind his back. You must bring his head before you can shave it'. Governments have always made plans for the private sector, for the farmers, for those in agricultural platforms, without hearing from them or discussing with them. In preparing that budget, did they even consider the private sector or those on agricultural platforms?” he queried.
“They [NSPRI] should not start putting in place infrastructure,” Ijewere said during a phone interview.
“They should concentrate their energy on educating people. The private sector will be able to do other things themselves if they create the enabling environment."
Speaking at a two-day capacity workshop on PHL in Imo State in October 2017, Director, Post- Harvest Engineering, Dr Foline Folorunso Olayemi, who was holding brief for Olufemi Peters, Executive Director NSPRI had said the country lost N2.7tl trillion to lost crops. According to him, the figure was the summary of a research conducted by the United Nations Food Agency- FAO and NSPRI in 2013. If this figure is juxtaposed with that made by Ojo, it means that Nigeria cut PHL by N2.69 trillion in six years.
This might not be accurate as a National Demographic Health Survey and Multiple Impact Cluster Survey carried out by Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) on the malnourishment levels in Nigerian children, said between 2003 and 2016, stunted prevalence in the country had risen by 2 per cent from 42 to 44 per cent. An official of the civil society alliance had explained that PHL is a major factor in determining nutrition levels in a country.
At a two-day workshop organised by GAIN and its affiliate- Post Harvest Loss Alliance for Nigeria (PHLAN), in September 2017, Gloria Elemo, Director General, Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), was quoted as saying the value of PHL in Nigeria is over $9bn and $15bn has been touted as the impact of losses in the tomato value chain.
Furthermore, a 2013 research into losses in the cassava and maize value chain conducted by Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) for the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), says ‘The total sum of monetary losses of cassava at the farm gate and during processing, storage, transport and marketing amounts to N144bn, which corresponds to €686m.’ Another study conducted in 2014 by the same organisation, says the country loses 24.9 per cent of produce across the rice value chain.
Ijewere explained to Civic Media Lab that there is no data just yet to measure the reduction in post-harvest losses but the private sector is increasing the consciousness of farmers and marketers on the need to change their refining and processing techniques.
When Civic Media Lab reached out to the NSPRI headquarters in Ilorin, Kwara State, we were directed to send an email which would be responded to in four working days. After the said period, we reached out again and was told the mail had been sent to the official with the desired information. No correspondence has been received from NSPRI as at the time of publishing this report.
A budget of N7.6bn was approved for NSPRI in 2018, as against N1.2bn in 2017. Capital expenditure in 2017 was 533,273,668 (533.3mn) which is 6,224,999,946 (6.2bn) less than the 6,758,273,614 (6.7bn) approved for capital projects in 2018. The institute proposed 15 line items in 2017, 49 less than the 64 approved by the legislature and signed by the pesident for execution in 2018.
With different figures being bandied about as the value of PHL across the country’s agricultural sector, NSPRI needs to execute joint investigations into wastages in the value chain of at least key crops in the farming industry but its budget does not indicate a plan to do so in the 2018 budget cycle.