The Executive Director, National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Ibadan, Dr Abayomi Olaniyan, says the planting season must not be missed by farmers, while preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Olaniyan told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Friday in Ibadan that this would help Nigeria to obtain its desired food security, prevent hunger, malnutrition when the COVID-19 pandemic problem would be over.
He noted that market access must also be addressed to prevent post-harvest losses and ensure that farmers were protected from loss of investment.
He urged government to ensure the movement and unhindered marketing of agricultural produce as well as the availability of farm inputs, especially improved seeds/seedlings for farmers.
“Also accessible, affordable credit/loan programmes to improve productivity, identifying the vulnerable groups in the country, supporting them through farming inputs and financially is important.
“There is need to have more gardens planted with vegetables, fruits, spices to have access to fresh nutritious foods inside our homes.
“People should form the habit of consuming wholesome, nutritive fresh fruits and vegetables which are body immune boosters,” Olaniyan said.
He noted that COVID-19 pandemic affected horticultural activity which was all-year round while limiting research activities that fell in the first quarter of the year.
According to him, efforts, resources had to be diverted for the provision of facilities which were not budgeted for to provide conducive environment and prevent the spread of the virus, while embarking on research activities.
“On farm labour supply are negatively affected due to restriction of movement. This may lead to post-harvest losses of horticultural crops such as tomato, pepper, vegetables, among others, due to restrictive marketing process, leading to increase in price.
“Also advisory services by extension agents to farmers are being hampered. Supply of seeds, agricultural inputs for planting season is not easily available to farmers,” he said.
Olaniyan noted that horticultural products were key sources of nutrients, vitamins and alkaloids; they could play major role in solving global micronutrients diseases, provide livelihood and foreign exchange earnings.
NAN reports that NIHORT has the national mandate to conduct research on genetic improvement, production technologies, processing, storage, utilisation and marketing of fruits, vegetables and other medicinal aromatic plant of nutritional economic importance.