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Farmers, agro dealers cry out over illegal levies


People harvest bananas at the plantation

This is actually not the best of times for farmers and Agro dealers in Lagos and Ogun States, as they are currently weighed down by the burden of illegal levies, which is negatively impacting their businesses.
They identified the Police, Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) officials, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), and Local Government officials, among others, as their albatross. 
Findings showed that several roadblocks are mounted on the Abeokuta-Lagos route, Ishaga/Oke Aro, Sango/Ifo, Epe route and Lagos/Ogun/Ibadan axis by government agencies who levy farmers arbitrarily and most times impound their vehicles if they fail to pay. 
The Guardian learnt that those transporting crops and livestock are the worst hit by this ugly development, as they most times have little or nothing left as profit. 
This has led to high cost of farm produce as the margin retailers add to the cost price, takes commodities beyond the reach of consumers.
Based on the analysis of the founder, Menitos Farm Depot, Toluwalope Daramola, Palm Oil for instance, can be purchased from the farm at the rate of N8, 500 per keg, transported to market at N1, 000 per keg, en route levies per keg at N2, 000, which sums up N11, 500 and by default sold with N500 profit, it makes it N12, 000 per keg, while without the levies palm oil per keg should sell at N10, 000.

“That’s why you sometimes find some selling with the discount of up to N1, 000, if they somehow avoid the levies, they can sell less. This happens on the Lagos/Ogun/Ibadan axis. The farther the distance, the higher the expenses. That’s why people avoid buying from far, it might be cheaper from source, but by the time you add transport, cost might not be workable.

“Another case is maize, which goes for as low as N10 per bunch at the farm, but gets to Lagos at about N40 to N50. Livestock is worse because delay can cause mortality and animals coming at N6, 000 can enter Lagos as high as N15, 000 after transport casualties and route levies.”

While narrating her experience, Daramola said: “The day I went to transport Turkeys from Epe by public transport, I lost two turkeys before I got to CMS due to “wetin you carry, what else is there” and so many mundane conversations I had to engage in to pass in peace while all my head was calculating how to get my turkeys home. The Lady that went with me was about to start a poultry farm, but that day’s experience got her rethinking till date.
“Another incident was one of the days I was moving plantain nursery to the farm from my Lagos residence. I was delayed for one and a half hours, while they tried to verify my papers, which was intact, but suspicious according to the VIO men. I left home at 5.30am and could have made it to the farm by 7am before the sun was up, but I ended up getting there after the sun was up causing the suckers distress and I also had to do extra work to plant that day. If you are not passionate about agric, some of these experiences would make you avoid it.   
“After all, the way they address men in suit is better, even when they have committed an offence but they treat farmers like criminals, accusatory and confrontational even in their manner of approach.”

Speaking on its impact, Daramola said the development has increased transport time, increased cost of produce and has discouraged people who don’t have the confidence to stand up to the uniformed touts.

“Produce prices are often fixed by market, so when you think you have a good harvest and meet with these tax collectors, your profit starts reducing even before you get to the market. Personally, we once abandoned our mini bus of pig feed because the guys en route Oke Aro insisted it was a commercial bus using private number. They are fond of staying at bad spots, you almost wonder if they create the bad spots to slow cars down. Another point is sharp bends where they often jump out in front of vehicles, as if they are on suicidal mission and start claiming the driver was speeding.”

She appealed to government and other stakeholders to ensure that vehicles carrying agric produce should not be unduly delayed, except there is a good cause. “Expecting me to offload the car to find my can of extinguish is not a good cause.”

Bolade Collins, a fruit dealer told The Guardian that those who are not into the business couldn’t understand their challenges. “Transportation is the main issue with farmers, and large number of bread and buttered Nigerians will tell you to comply with the rules of FRSC road safety, VIO and police. When farmers come back to slam them with the price of commodities following high cost of transportation, they start abusing government, again claiming high cost of food stuffs.

“At every forum I attend and I am opportune to speak, I never miss talking about transportation. Imagine, transporting a carton of chicks is N1, 000 per carton and N500 for bulk order. The same thing goes with a bag of produce. If Nigerians think food is expensive, they don’t know anything, let them continue levying us for transporting crops and livestock, na consumer go pay.”

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