Efficiency of Food Reserves in Enhancing Food Security in Developing Countries: The Nigerian Experience

As a policy objective, the attainment of food security in Nigeria began facing challenges prior to independence when oil exportation began in 1958. But the challenges became pronounced and persistent after the commencement of large-scale oil exports in the early 1970s, when the country nearly abandoned agriculture in pursuit of newfound oil wealth. Self-sufficiency in food production and agricultural export earnings, aided by widespread cultivation of food crops and regional specialisation in cash crops – the cocoa mountains in the west, the oil palm and kernel heaps in the east, and groundnut pyramids in the north – began to diminish and disappear respectively. Within a few years after independence in 1960, the agricultural sector transitioned from a net foreign exchange earner to net foreign exchange drain.The objective of this study is to examine the role of food reserves in enhancing food security in Nigeria and to assess their effectiveness. The aims are 1) to explain the organisation of the food reserve system, enumerate the policies guiding participation and investments in the sector, and identify the set of actors and measure their roles in food security, 2) to analyse the operational efficiency of the food reserve system and examine its effectiveness in public consumption smoothing. The study was implemented in two phases. The first phase involved a desk review of the food security and food reserve system in Nigeria. This turned up very limited information due to the paucity of official reports and studies that dominantly provided low quality data. In particular, there was a lack of data and information about subnational reserves at the federal level and a lack of central coordination. In the second phase, fieldwork was done in two states (Oyo and Plateau) to examine the organisation of the food reserve system. The fieldwork involved field visits to ministries, departments, agencies and research institutions, and documentation of responses to interview questions on the aims of the study. Where data or reports were available, these were collected for analysis. The study focused on grains/cereals as they are the crops commonly procured for storage globally.