Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mahmood Abubakar, has attributed the hike in food prices to the loss of 50 per cent of agricultural produce as a result of infestation by pests and diseases.

He stated that Nigeria loses 50 per cent of its yearly farm gate value to pests, leading to yield and quality losses, food scarcity and an increase in food prices.

The minister spoke, yesterday, in Abuja at a media parley organised by the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) organised to mark the International Day of Plant Health. He stated that healthy plants are at the very core of food security.

He said: “Our ability to meet our nutritional needs and dietary preferences hinges on the status of our plant health. Healthy plants mean a thriving economy. The healthier our plant resources are, the more business value we can generate from crop agriculture and the more decent jobs in the crop value chains.”

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He emphasised the need to care for plant health even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying plants produce 98 per cent of the oxygen human beings inhale and also constitute the base of the human and animal food chains, accounting for at least 80 per cent of the food consumed.

The minister said the current administration has taken plant health as a national priority and that it is set to establish six plant health clinics across the six geopolitical zones.