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Insecurity, costly inputs disrupt food production, upset farmers

By Femi Ibirogba, Head, Agro-Economy
02 August 2022   |   2:44 am
Nigerian farmers and agronomists have expressed concern that widespread insecurity and higher prices of farm inputs in the country are shrinking the number of hectares put to food cultivation

Maize farm

Nigerian farmers and agronomists have expressed concern that widespread insecurity and higher prices of farm inputs in the country are shrinking the number of hectares put to food cultivation and this will affect the productivity of farmers in the 2022/2023 wet season.

This will aggravate food scarcity and hunger in the country, with the collateral damage of malnutrition affecting the vulnerable, among whom are children, women and the unemployed.

It will be recalled that on February 4 this year, the World Food Programme (WFP) listed Nigeria as one of the four hungriest countries, including Ethiopia, South Sudan and Yemen.

This is as agronomists said shortage in rice and other grain as a result of low production in the country would aggravate food inflation, hunger and household income value erosion.

Prominent grain-producing states are currently being plundered by armed bandits, terrorists and marauding herders, preventing farmers from accessing their farms. Niger, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Bauchi and Kaduna, among other grain-producing states, have been languishing under attacks by bandits, terrorists and Boko Haram insurgents.

The number one maize-producing state in the country, Kaduna, and its counterpart, Niger, are enmeshed in activities of terrors and bandits, and intensive farming in the states, to say the least, is practically impossible.

Unfortunately, Nigeria is estimated to have a deficit of 10 million metric tonnes of maize, and this could become aggravated as commercial production in the largest producing states is disrupted, while industrial demand soars and its price skyrockets.

Again, a higher inflation rate at 18.6 has caused prices of farm inputs to skyrocket, as farmers become unable to simultaneously cope with household demands and farm operation requirements due to the value erosion of the naira.

Buttressing deficiencies in food production chains, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in a report, ‘Nigeria Agriculture at a Glance,’ said between 2016 and 2019, Nigeria’s cumulative agricultural imports stood at N3.35 trillion, four times higher than the agricultural export of N803 billion within the same period.

FAO also said Nigeria’s rice production rose from 3.7 million metric tonnes in 2017 to 4.0 million metric tonnes in 2018, far below its 7.0 million plus demand yearly.

“Nigeria is the largest fish consumer in Africa and among the largest fish consumers in the world with about 3.2 million metric tonnes of fish consumed annually. Its fisheries and aquaculture are among the fastest-growing subsectors in the country.

“With a coastline of 853km and over 14 million hectares of inland waters, total fish production per year is close to 1 million metric tonnes (313,231 metric tonnes from aquaculture and 759,828 metric tonnes from fisheries).”

Data sourced from Worldlistmania indicates that Nigeria is the 16th largest producer in the world with a yearly figure of 4.5 million metric tonnes of processed rice. The country’s consumption, however, hovers above 7.0 million metric tonnes despite the claim by the Federal Government that the country is sufficient.

Nigeria imported 2.1 million metric tonnes (MMTs); 1.8MMTs; 1.800MMTs; 1.9MMTs and 2.0MMTs from 2017/2018 to December 2021/2022 seasons respectively.

This is disclosed in a report tagged, ‘Grain: World Markets and Trade – December 2021,’ by the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service.

Whereas, the country produced 4.47MMTs; 4.53MMTs; 5.04MMTs; 4.89MMTs and 5.00MMTs from 2017/2018 to December 2021/2022 seasons respectively.

However, Nigeria’s rice consumption from 2017/2018 to December 2021/2022 seasons respectively, was 6.750 million tonnes; 6.800million tonnes; 6.850 million tonnes; 6.900 million tonnes, and 6.950 million metric tonnes.

Specifically, the country’s consumption of 6.95 (almost 7.0) million metric tonnes and production of 5.000MMTs leave a deficit of approximately 2.00 million metric tonnes.

Chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Oyo State branch, Mr Samuel Akinade, said though security had improved in the state as Amotekun Corps work to protect communities, higher cost of inputs, such as fertiliser and herbicides, as well as quality seeds, were restricting farmers’ capacity to cultivate at commercial levels.

“For instance,” he said, “a one-litre bottle of herbicide was N2,000 in 2021, but now it costs N4,000 to N5000. A kilogramme of rice seeds was N400 in the same period, but now it costs N600.”

A 50-kg bag of NPK fertiliser, he said, costs about N16,000 while ploughing one acre of land had increased from N8,000 in 2021 to N15,000 now.

Many members of the association, he explained to The Guardian, are currently unable to pool resources together for farm operations, just as they battle with inflation and household incomes become drastically depleted and inadequate.

A crop protection scientist and rice farmer cultivating over 40 hectares of rice in Iwo, Osun State, Mr Ayooade Popoola, corroborated Akinde’s position on how expensive inputs have contributed to the reduction of hectares under cultivation in the absence of affordable loans to farmers.

Speaking with The Guardian recently, Popoola said one kg of quality rice seeds had increased from N300 to N700 in less than two years. And, land preparation, particularly ploughing of one acre of farmland, had increased from N3,000 in 2019/2020 to N15,000 in 2022, while a bottle of one-litre herbicides had increased from N2000 to N4000 and above.

Again, a bottle of one-litre pesticides has increased from N2,500 to N5,000, while the cost of labour has increased from N2000 to about N5,000 daily.

Broadcasting of rice did cost about N1,500, but now costs N3,500 per acre. Fuel per litre is sold at about N200, increasing from N165, Popoola said.

A knapsack sprayer, which was around N7,500 about three years ago, is now N35,000.

The increase in prices of the critical inputs in agriculture, Popoola lamented, had incapacitated farmers and drastically reduced the total number of hectares under cultivation. Some farmers, he added, have abandoned commercial farming altogether.

A former Kebbi State chairman of RIFAN, Sahabi Augie, said prices of critical inputs, such as fertiliser and other agro-chemicals, as well as seeds, seedlings, labour and transportation, had become so high that most farmers could not afford to cultivate the number of hectares they were doing when the prices of inputs were lower.

Supporting the foregoing, the Regional Coordinator and Director, Nigeria Office, Africa Rice, Dr Francis Nwilene, also pointed out the challenges, saying the higher cost of inputs ranked as one of the most difficult situations of the farmers.

He explained that smart agriculture requires quality seeds to beat the challenges of climate change. The smart-agriculture seeds should, therefore, be drought-tolerant, early-maturing and pest-resistant.

Ironically, small-scale farmers in Nigeria are so economically disabled that they cannot afford quality and smart-agriculture seeds and other inputs.

Apart from that, fertiliser and other agro-chemicals are now more expensive as the dollar-naira exchange rate and higher rate of inflation compound the economic distress and reduce disposable incomes of most farmers significantly.

Adulteration of fertiliser and agrochemicals has also emerged as collateral damage in the agricultural and food production system in Nigeria.

However, Nwilene suggested deepening out-grower schemes, where processors and industrial users would supply inputs and buy back the produce from farmers. This way, he explained, farmers would get necessary quality inputs, and industrial processors would have raw materials, which might ensure food availability, sustainable productivity and food sufficiency in a win-win arrangement.

Another way out of the crisis, he added, is that farmers and other stakeholders can form innovation platforms, a one-stop shop for inputs, where farmers have access to seed and agro-chemical dealers, tractor service providers and off-takers of produce, among others. This might help farmers, Nwilene said, as inputs are supplied in exchange for farm products at the end of the season.

For instance, Nwilene said, the Bukan Sidi Innovation Platform, specifically for rice value chain players, has been put in place and is functional in Niger State.

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