Professor Geraldine Egondu Ugwuonah has tasked farmers in rural communities to step up local food production and distribution to complement the growing and changing global food demand, and that failure to meet this target would spell doom for the country as Nigerians would continue to rely on imported food.

The Professor of Marketing said that the government had placed a ban on the importation of rice few years ago, adding that the government would place another ban on the importation of fish by 2018, all of which she said were for local farmers to utilize the opportunity to raise the production, distribution and marketing of local products in order to ensure that there is food security in the country.

Prof. Ugwuonah made this known Thursday at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, (UNEC), in Enugu, while delivery the 123rd inagural lecture of the university.

The lecture which took place at the Moot Court of the university was titled: Market-led Approach to Agricultural Value Chain Development: Issues in Investment and Wealth Creation.

The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba in a message congratulated the lecturer, noting that inaugural lectures were avenues through which scholars educate the public and the academic community about their achievements in current research.

Ugwuonah pointed out that the inability of farmers to utilize the numerous investment opportunities in the agricultural value chain in Nigeria were responsible for their dwindling fortune and the shortage of food supply in the country, stressing that it was important to engage the services of marketing to ensure that the produce are sold and enough returns are made.

She decried the declining revenues from agriculture as less is now contributing to the nation’s GDP, different from what it was before the early 1970s.

“Before the early 1970s, agriculture was a major employer of labour. It remained a vital sector and contributed immensely to the purse of the nation. In the early 60s, agriculture accounted for over 62.3% of the country’s GDP and more than 7% of its foreign exchange earnings,” she said.

“Today, over 70% of Nigerians depend on other nations for food which should give our farmers concern. Farmers must rise and meet up the expectation to curb the heavy reliance on other nations for food.”

The Don believes that processing industries in rice, cassava and aquaculture would generate a good number of employment and investment opportunities for an enhanced livelihood for farmers, middlemen and processors in the value chain. 

She advised farmers in the value chain to form farmer groups through which they could be linked to the global markets for better sales and returns.

The Professor added that actors in the value chain must be networked and linked as it availed the farmers the opportunity of being more stable capital-wise in the market.

She beckoned on stakeholders and the government to provide an enabling environment for enhanced farming to thrive by providing the necessary processing and storage infrastructure, and other facilities, while striving to overcome impedants to food production in the country.

The lecturer thanked members of the university governing council for the approval of her lecture and for their support. 

She urged her colleagues in the academicia to remain steadfast to God and to continue supporting the Ozumba led administration.

The ceremony was well attended by politicians, lecturers, friends and students within and outside the university community.

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