October 26, 2012 / 1:07 PM / 7 years ago

Nigeria president says floods won't cause hunger

People wade through a flood with their belongings after their houses were submerged in the Amassoma community in Bayelsa state October 6, 2012. REUTERS/Tife Owolabi

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan sought to allay fears on Friday that the nation’s worst floods in at least five decades would trigger a food crisis because of damage to crops.

Jonathan, who this month toured some parts of Africa’s most populous nation that have been submerged by floods he has described as a ‘national disaster’, spoke to journalists and other visitors to the presidential villa.

“People should not be afraid that there will be hunger in the land ... We have enough grains in our reserves,” he said, when asked about the impact of the floods on food production.

“Some selfish people are already hoarding grains ... but they are doing that to their disadvantage,” he said.

At least 140 people have been killed, hundreds of thousands displaced and tens of thousands of hectares of farmland have been submerged since the start of July, emergency officials say, after several major rivers burst their banks.

Flooding in the oil rich Niger Delta, where Africa’s third longest river flows into the Atlantic ocean, has disrupted oil production to the tune of around 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) — more than a fifth of Nigeria’s output — according to the Department of Petroleum Resources.

French oil firm Total says it stopped oil and gas production on its onshore OML 58 block due to floods, declaring force majeure on supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Nigeria, which gets heavy tropical rains from May to September, often suffers seasonal flash floods. But the sheer scale of the devastation this year has shocked people. Local TV stations have beamed images of towns and cities under water.

A cocoa industry body said last month that cocoa output would fall far short of a 300,000 tonne target for last season because of excessive rains.

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