Cash Scarcity: Bleak planting season imminent, farmers warn
As the 2023 planting season commences across the country, farmers have raised the alarm that the current season might turn out to be the worst, due to the lingering challenges of cashless and new naira redesign policy destabilising farming activities.
A cross section of the farmers are expressing concern that the development might affect availability of food crops, as almost all rural and smallholder farmers, who cultivate bulk of the food consumed by Nigerians deal in cash.
In its quarterly report, few weeks back, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), projected that about 25.3 million people in Nigeria would face acute food insecurity during the June to August 2023 lean season.
The global organisation says this year’s situation would be a “significant deterioration” as the projection is bringing additional 5.85 million people to the 19.45 million estimated to face food insecurity earlier in 2022.
The Executive Officer, Oreka Farms Limited, Obafemi Owode Local Council, Ogun State, Bose Ruth Suberu, said: “Some farmers have started planting, but this year will likely be one of the most challenging year for farmers. Preparedness of rural farmers is poor considering the inability of most of them to get cash to pay for major farm work like clearing, heaping and others.
“The cashless policy and new Naira note issue destabilised farming activities as almost all rural farmers deal in cash. Even with the reintroduction of the old Naira note, farmers are unable to get sufficient of it for transaction.”
Suberu regretted that most of farmers harvested produce were sold at ridiculous prices just to survive the harsh economic weather. “Inputs are on the high side and almost becoming unaffordable.”
The CEO/Founder, Pepperest Limited, Oluwatosin Johnson, confirmed that for the open field farmers, the current planting season is a challenging time, as it requires a lot of input but very little money coming in.
“The planting season has already started. For any serious capsicum farmer, nursing should have been done a month ago, if they have not already transplanted. For screen house/greenhouse farmers like me, the time of the year does not really matter. We plant and replant year round. But for open field farmers, this is a challenging time. The period requires a lot of input but very little money has come in.
“Every season comes with its own unique challenges. Capsicum farmers encounter a lot of insect infestation during this season, which coincides with planting. To overcome, farmers require extra funding for necessary inputs and change of input to avoid resistance of the plants to the input in current use. Also, farmers will need more hands for proper sanitation of the farm.
“Chief amongst the challenges that capsicum farmers face is funding, now more than ever. During planting season, not much comes in, and you have to keep a lot going into the farm and your farm hands.”
Johnson said the ideal situation is that during the peak season of sales that just ended, a farm ought to have made enough to put something aside to cover this period, however, deals are not reality.
“I will give an instance of my personal experience. I started this business after doing my studies and engaged consultants. It was capital intensive because we wanted to grow year round.
“Despite the teething challenges, we started producing and entered the market. It was amazing at first when not many farmers were harvesting. But at the peak of the season, the produce flooded the market from farms around the nation and even outside the nation, and the price crashed.
“I had no choice but to adapt to market realities and cut back my expectations. Now, naturally, I do not have as much reserve as I hoped to, going into the new season. If I do not have another source of funding my business before harvest, I may find myself in a pickle. Every year is different.”
On his part, an Agriculturist and Managing Director of BAMA farms, Wale Oyekoya, identified dearth of farm hands as a major challenge for farmers. “The only challenge that I could envisage is the farm workers issue as it’s very hard to get good hands now as most of the youth don’t want to cultivate with cutlasses and hoes, ancient way. Another problem is to get tractors to do the farm work. The tractor is not available or difficult to get and expensive to hire.
“The states and Federal Government have roles to play by supporting farmers for the early planting. Release more farmlands for the farmers. Support farmers with fertiliser and irrigation system. The state should provide grants and soft loans.”
Oyeloya believed that the Southwest governors have a lot to do to assist farmers in their states since they provide more employments for the youth.
“They should create enabling environment to the farmers, assist farmers with their sales, provide storage facilities to store their farm produce, provide better infrastructure to the rural area to help farmers transport their produce to the city.
“State like Ogun should take advantage of the closeness to Lagos to establish more farm produce markets to feed Lagos.” Suberu advised government at all levels to be more concern about food security and help farmers with inputs, adding that tractors should be made accessible to rural farmers.On her part, Johnson appealed to government to ensure farmers get access to low interest loans and grants.
“The largest perishable goods market in West Africa is in Lagos – Mile 12. That is our major market. It gets flooded with goods from farms within and outside the country that get grants. Profit is not their motivation. They just move volume and make it impossible for farmers like me to compete.
“There should be protection and security for local farmers. Government should help us prioritise our produce before others from other regions and countries are allowed into the market. Also, government can look into partnership with greenhouse farms like ours to produce subsidised foods, specifically for the local community and help with food security.”