Saturday, 10th June 2023

COVID-19: Farmers count losses as commodities perish for lack of buyers – Part 2

By Gbenga Akinfenwa (Lagos), Ahmadu Baba Idris (Birnin Kebbi), Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi (Jos) and Joseph Wantu (Makurdi) 
24 May 2020   |   3:41 am
The situation is the same in Plateau State, as farmers have continued to count their losses. The state chairman of AFAN, Pam Enoch, said: All the farmers in the state have been locked-up.

I’ve Lost Over N1.95m To Wastage — Vsla
• My Grains Have Been Decaying In-Store —Bagudo
• Agro Exporters Badly Affected — Iyama
• Plateau Farmers Need N200m As Compensation — Enoch
• I Lost 10,000 Yam Tubers, 50,000 Lying In-Store—Ajoko

The situation is the same in Plateau State, as farmers have continued to count their losses. The state chairman of AFAN, Pam Enoch, said: All the farmers in the state have been locked-up. This is the sixth week they have not been going to their farms. Vegetable that is supposed to be harvested now has continued to perish.

“The Irish potatoes, which ought to be supervised and even harvested, are also perishing. In fact, this period presents itself as an opportunity for potato thieves to harvest the products in the night.”

Enoch said the farmers need about N200m as compensation for losses incurred so far, so that they can bounce back to their initial position, adding that the 2020 farming season is one of the worst farmers in Plateau have encountered in the recent past.

“This is because they have barely overcome the Fulani herdsmen attacks when the issue of COVID-19 broke out, which is an enemy of human existence. Between February and May has always been a period that farmers produce enough of vegetables, rice, beans and Irish potatoes to sell, to get enough money for fertilizers. But that has turned to a mirage now.

“Plateau and Federal Governments have continued to announce that farmers should go to their farms, unfortunately, you don’t farm without chemical and fertilizers, which are supposed to be sourced for earlier before the farming season proper. There is intra-local government restriction in the state and so you can’t travel from the rural areas to the urban areas to look for chemical and organic fertilizers.”
Enoch added that even if the farmers managed to harvest their produce, none of them could invite any buyer to the farm as usual. He pointed out that it was unfortunate that the state government has not launched the sale of its 2020 fertilizers to farmers.

He explained that even if the government had launched the fertilizer sales, there was no fertilizer to sell. “A bag is sold at the black market for over N15, 000. This is a very big challenge to the farmers.”

Enoch wants the state and Federal Governments to compensate the farmers for their losses by giving them loans since they have a strong and viable association in the state, while the state government should have a working synergy with the security agencies to ensure that farmers are protected in the course of moving their products and inputs.

A prominent farmer in the state, Musa Gabriel, said if the situation continues like this, most Nigerians, particularly the Plateau citizens, will die of ‘hunger pandemic’ and not of Coronavirus because prices of food and other agro commodities will be too high that the rich might not afford to buy.

“Government is urging the farmers to go to the farm. How do you go to the farm when you are supposed to take commercial vehicles? You may be living in Jos South and your farm is at Barkin Ladi, your farm may be in Pankshin and you may be living in Mangu. You may be living in Bokkos and your farm may be somewhere else. How do you go to the farm with all these restrictions of commercial vehicles?” he asked.

FARMERS in Benue, the state is otherwise known as “The Food Basket of the Nation,” are also receiving their fair share of the negative economic downturn of the pandemic. 

The Guardian observation revealed that farmers of perishable produce and other agricultural products are the worst hit by the development. Due to the lockdown, they have incurred huge losses as a result of scarcity of buyers, resulting in wastage.

A renowned farmer in Zaki-Biam, Ukum Local Government Area of the state, Mr. Gbertile Ajoko said he lost up to 10,000 tubers of yams that got rotten within the period.

Ajoko added that the remaining 50,000 tubers ready to be marketed are there in his bans without buyers as most of their customers normally come from Eastern and Southern parts of the country. 

He called on government and other well-meaning individuals to step in and purchase the product for distribution to citizens of the state, as palliatives to cushion the effect of the pandemic. 

Another farmer, who is a fruits dealer, in Gboko town, Iorkenger Nakyur, lost over 100 bags of oranges due to absence of buyers. “The coronavirus lockdown had finished our businesses. As I speak, there are no buyers and the consumption ratio here is poor. “

Nakyur urged well to do individuals in the state to use the opportunity of the glut to set up cottage fruits juice industries in the state, to complement external buyers to boost the state’s economy. 

He said such move would boost the economy of the state, even in the face of unexpected eventualities. 

The immediate past Chairman of AFAN in the state, Comrade Aondona Kuhe, regretted that the pandemic and the lockdown have really affected farming in the state. 

He said with the development, no farmer is having the mind or courage to visit farms amidst fears of the ravaging disease. This, he said will in no small measure affect the food security of the state and the country. 

Kuhe maintained that due to the lockdown, the usual international and inter-state trading in Agric produce has stopped and the available foodstuff are being consumed locally. 

He said the money that usually comes to farmers in the form of government interventions is no longer coming as all efforts are geared towards tackling the pandemic. 

Kuhe however, called on states and Federal Governments to at least, subsidise inputs such as seedlings, fertilizers and herbicides, as well as pesticides to farmers to boost their morale. 

He said as the situation is, farmers have incurred great losses, insisting that government must look for a way to compensate them. 

“Previously, many buyers would come to our community with many trucks to buy watermelon but now they don’t buy and the products are rotting. We are stranded financially as a result of COVID-19, with regard to our only source of livelihood because my children’s farm produce are no longer selling and they invested all we had into watermelon production,” said Madam Dammu Labbo Vsla, another farmer from Kebbi State.