How access to inputs, market linkage affects productivity
• Experts harp on improved seed varieties, mechanisation
Stakeholders in crop production have called on the government, especially at the state level, to facilitate greater access of farmers to critical production means such as loans, improved seedlings, agro-chemicals and market linkage to industrial users to make production sustainable and boost food sufficiency.
Productivity per hectare has remained at the low ebb as poor funding, poor varieties, low mechanisation and inadequate market information and linkage have constrained most small-scale farmers from sustainable farming.
One of the responses of the Federal Government to such challenges was establishment of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), with a mission to link smallholder farmers, reputable companies (anchors) and financial institutions in key agricultural commodities.
Critics, however, have pointed out that states, where most of the cultivation takes place, are less active in the scheme. Their active participation and mobilisation of farmers for production and off-take of crops could have deepened the scheme.
Produce covered under the ABP are rice, maize, wheat, cotton, cassava, potatoes, yam, ginger, sugarcane, oil palm, cocoa, rubber, soybean, sesame seed, cowpea, tomato, fish, poultry and ruminants, among others.
According to the policy document, the broad objective of the ABP is to create economic linkages between smallholder farmers and processors with a view to increasing agricultural output and ensuring food price stability.
And the specific objectives include increasing banks’ financing to improve agricultural productivity by creating an ecosystem that drives value chain financing; reducing the nation’s food import bill through import substitution and enhanced domestic value addition; creating new generation of farmers through innovative financing to support smart agriculture; and deepening financial inclusion and growing smallholder farmers from subsistence to commercial farming.
The core of the programme is to provide loans (in kind and cash) to smallholder farmers to boost agricultural production, create jobs and reduce food import bill towards conservation of foreign reserve.
HOWEVER, it is pertinent to evaluate the impact on productivity of farmers, availability of industrial raw material and perhaps exports.
Nigeria’s Country Director and Regional Coordinator, Africa Rice Centre (AfricaRice), Dr Francis Nwilene, said the scheme had boosted farmers’ productivity following improved rice varieties developed by AfricaRice, such as FARO 44 and 46, among others.
Similarly, the President of the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Mr Adeola Adegoke, said the 2020/2021 loans given to each some cocoa farmers helped boost productivity by at least 10 per cent, with some increasing their produce from 30 to 40 bags of the cocoa beans.
Adegoke added that beneficiaries also diversified the base of their incomes by planting other crops and adding animal and fish production through the facilities.
He said, hopefully, more farmers would get loans from the ABP scheme before the cocoa planting and maintenance season begins.
Adegoke, however, said there were some challenges confronting some farmers, such as fire outbreaks, herders’ destruction of farms and impacts of climate change on farmers. Despite these challenges, loan repayment had been very encouraging, and the association had been sensitising beneficiaries to rev up repayment.
In a lecture he delivered during a wheat farmers’ green field day in Kaduna State in February, titled, ‘An overview of wheat production in Nigeria,’ Dr. Oluwasina Olabanji, a foremost wheat specialist in Nigeria and Coordinator of Monitoring and Evaluation, ABP wheat production, said seeds and input challenges were being addressed by the Federal Government, and FMAN was committed to off-take all wheat grains produced by farmers.
Again, during the wheat farmers’ green field day in Dambata council of Kano State on February 16, 2022, Olabanji assured Nigerians that the journey to wheat self-sufficiency had begun and would be sustained with the political will of Nigerian government and various initiatives from FMAN and CBN.
Also, while making comments on the ABP recently, Head of Farm Initiative, Olam Group, Reji George, said the scheme is capable of producing more crops for food and industrial uses.
He said efforts of his firm and out-growers to participate in the 2020/2021 season failed because the company had given inputs to tomato out-growers before the ABP inputs were ready.
“But this year, we cannot do it because irrigation facilities in Kano and Jigawa are closed down for repairs. We are willing to participate,” George said.
As the rainy season farming begins, stakeholders said critical inputs and financial resources should be made available to farmers through the ABP and at various state levels to ensure adequate food production and increased productivity per hectare.
This, they said, would bring down high prices of food currently experienced in the country.