‘How drought, COVID-19, others batter agribusinesses’
Elongated drought (dry spells) between July and August, excessive rainfalls with flash flooding, and shutdown of social businesses since April 2020 have combined to deal a devastating blow to smooth farm operations, sale of produce, ability to meet contractual agreements, and ultimately, the profitability of farmers.
Commercial catfish farmers, poultry producers, food crop farmers, and fruit and vegetable farmers, to mention but a few, have been affected by the forces beyond their control.
President of the Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN), Mr Rotimi Oloye, reiterated that perpetual closure of clubs, event centres, relaxation joints and reduction in social events like burial and wedding ceremonies and birthday parties, among others, have shrunk demand for catfish despite heavy investments by farmers earlier in the year, forcing them to sell below costs.
Mr Olusola Olunowo, Managing Director, Agro Park, a farm asset manager, also disclosed that taking solace in food crop production was believed to be a way forward following losses in poultry chicken production amid COVID-19, but the drought had made nonsense of the hope.
He said drought devastated several hectares of maize, turmeric, potato, rice, and spice farms, compounding the firm’s losses earlier recorded as a result of the inability to sell catfish, chickens, and other animal products.
“We run an agricultural asset management system where people have invested a lot of money with us and we think if we don’t get it right, it will affect investments coming into agriculture.
“While we are trying to balance from the COVID-19 challenges, we decided to face the staple crops. Staple crops will always sell in a country like Nigeria, where men and animals still eat the same crops. Many people know that ‘August breaks’ come in the first week of August, then goes the last week of August.
“But we had rained on July 8 this year, and you could count the number of rainfalls before then. This year, things are different. Everything that was planted in April waiting for the harvest was caught in the middle of the pandemic and it was really disastrous because many farmers are affected,” Olunowo said.
A former chairman of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) in Oyo State, Mr John Olateru, also added his voice, saying as the poultry farmers were hopeful of overcoming the effects of the pandemic-induced lockdown, the cost of producing poultry went up as the Federal Government placed a restriction on the importation of maize, the most essential ingredient of animal feeds.
The enabling environment for agribusinesses has been eroded, compounded with inadequate and overpriced electricity supply. Cost of diesel for independent power sources is not helpful, he added.
Apart from the drought, Olunowo said demand for products is still a challenge, saying, “what we can sell now cannot be more than 25 per cent of whatever we have been doing in the past. The chicken is even worse off now because of the cost of inputs that have gone up by 200 per cent.”
A live day-old-chick, he said, costs between N470 and N600 now, and the farm has to produce at less than 25 per cent capacity because Nigerians are not buying expensive chickens.
He harped on the export market as a game-changer, saying obtaining a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification would afford many Nigerians farmers and processors to maximise profit, employ more workers and deepen industrialisation of crops.