Farmers in dilemma as tractor lease hits N50, 000 per hour
Since the beginning of the year, farmers have been struggling to cope with the rising cost of inputs, logistics and other variables, a development that forced a good number of small-scale farmers to scale down their activities.
The situation became worse when the planting season commenced fully – the cost of the inputs further soared and the energy crisis compounded it.
What actually made the matter worse, was the high cost of labour. The cost of labour, which stood at N250, 000 per worker last year, suddenly increased to N300, 000, excluding feeding, housing, medicals, and clothing.
In order to minimise cost and make things work, some of the farmers embraced the use of tractors as alternatives. To them, hiring of tractors, if well managed would make the work easier, faster and at a moderate cost.
But to the chagrin of the farmers, the cost of hiring a tractor suddenly increased astronomically, beyond the reach of average farmers.
Investigations showed that hiring a tractor, which costs between N7, 000 to N8, 000 per hour as at last year, currently goes for as high as N50, 000. This has been attributed to the cost of diesel, which rose from N350 to over N720 in the last few months.
Farmers are currently struggling to meet up with their daily farming production and other activities, due to the negative impact of the development on the sector.
A Professor of Horticulture, University of Maiduguri, who was the Pioneer Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, Yobe State University, Damaturu, Yobe State, Abba Gambo, who confirmed the development, described the situation as a big challenge to farmers.
He said: “What is happening now for land clearing using tractors is going beyond the means of farmers. The tractor uses diesel. Last year, hiring of a tractor was N7, 000 per hour for a farmer to pay for his land to be ploughed and harrowed. This year, the tractor is N50, 000 per hour. So, you now look at how the farmer can cope.
“If you are talking about four hours operation, that means you are talking about N200, 000, there’s a big challenge there. Then, still across the agricultural value chain, as you are moving, most farmers do not have access to what is called hybrid seeds, the research institutes are there, they produce many hybrid seeds, but the problem is that there is a disconnect between the farmers, the researchers and the research institutes.
“There used to be an effective and efficient extension system that takes the research from institute and universities to the farmers and vice versa, but presently, the extension delivery system in the country has collapsed completely.”
Gambo lamented that a bag of NPK 15-15-15, which was N8, 000 last year, is now N35, 000. “Honestly, I find it difficult to understand and also to justify this price, it’s very difficult to understand because farmers cannot afford it, they now look for whatever they can do to make sure that the farms are fertilised.”
The Secretary-General, Coker Farm Settlement Association, Coker, Ifo, Ogun State, Mr. Kazeem Adediran, confirmed that the cost of ploughing an acre of land in the state, which was previously done at the rate of N7, 500, has moved up.
He noted that the situation is getting out of hand, even to the point that the state government cannot provide tractors for the settlements, not to talk of providing tractors for other farmers in the state.
“As I have said, food shortage is looming and crimes of different grades will be experienced across the country.”
The Chief Executive Officer of Green Sahara Farms, Suleiman Dikwa, regretted that the development would lead to marginal decrease in food production. “We have many factors pushing the prices and the major one is the price of energy.
“We need to look at hard data and ask the question how many people actually could afford a tractor at the old cost? We have been begging for the answer, we don’t have a viable agric policy and where we do, we lack the will and sometimes the capacity to determine what is the right way to go about our agriculture.
“There will be a marginal decrease in food production. Unless we are assuming before the increase cost of inputs was appropriate and the system was working. If it was, we can say that an intervention is required because certain circumstances threw up issues that need to be resolved.
“We have at least five entities at the federal level, which enable mechanisation. We have not addressed the issue of appropriate mechanisation. What is the right machine to use a Tractor, which cost about N15m for a farmer with less than $300 annual income according to all available or the right machinery like mechanised or manual tillers, regenerative agriculture among others, which can have effect on an impactful number.”
While noting that the government needs to assist farmers at this time, Dikwa said the development is an emergency situation, which needs a radical departure from how things are done in the sector and the country.
He said: “At this time of the season, what we can do is to plan to have a more sustainable system or look at the value chain and see how we can intervene at the primary processing point – handling, transportation, storage and minimum guaranteed pricing and market.
“We can also plan for the dry season. We need to do a holistic overhaul of the system. Reduce the multiplicity of agencies and redirect the resources to value adding activities. It is an emergency situation, which needs a radical departure from how we do things in the sector and the country.”
He concluded that the government should immediately focus on reducing post harvest losses to make up for lost capacity, noting that the country can save the sum of $2.4b if the step is taken.
The Head of Farmers (Baale Agbe) in Imeko area, Ogun State, Chief Abdulazeez Ismail Abolore, said there is no doubt that the country may gradually go into famine if urgent solutions are not provided to arrest the situation.
He added that the increase in prices of energy and logistics has also affected price of feeds for poultry, fish, and others.