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Shortage of tractors threatens food security

By Femi Ibirogba (Head, Agro-Economy), Oluwaseun Akingboye (Akure), Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan), Ahmad Muhammad (Kano) and Abel Abogonye (Lafia)
23 February 2022   |   4:31 am
Shortage of tractors and critical implements for farm mechanisation has hit the country as land preparation for the 2022 dry and wet season cultivation begins across agro-ecological zones.

Tractor

• Nation’s seven tractors per 10,000ha fall below 200/10,000ha global average
• Food prices remain high despite claim of rice, grain sufficiency

Shortage of tractors and critical implements for farm mechanisation has hit the country as land preparation for the 2022 dry and wet season cultivation begins across agro-ecological zones.

Secretary, Agricultural Equipment Hiring Operators Association, Biodun Olugbami, said statistics vary. But the often-repeated claim is that Nigeria has a little above 7,000 – 10,000 functional tractors, and about 55,000 tractors are said to be dysfunctional or broken down.

On the ideal number of tractors that can ensure farm mechanisation and food security in the country, he said the global average of tractors to land size is 200 per 100km2.

100km2 is 10,000 hectares, translating to one tractor to 50 hectares in an ideal situation. In Africa, it is about 13 tractors to 10,000 hectares. However, the situation is worse in Nigeria at seven tractors to 10,000 hectares of land.

This came as Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission, Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, and Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Sub-Regional Coordinator for Eastern Africa and Representative to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Dr Chimimba David Phiri, said in a report that only sustainable agricultural mechanisation can redeem Africa from perpetual food insecurity.

They said the African Union Commission (AUC) and FAO view “agricultural mechanisation in Africa as an urgent matter and an indispensable pillar for attaining the Zero Hunger vision by 2025, as stated in the Malabo Declaration of 2014, Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Prosperous Africa We Want, as indicated in Agenda 2063.”

The professionals also warned that doubling food production and eliminating hunger and malnutrition in Africa by 2025 would be a mirage unless mechanisation is employed in farming.

They recommended that “enhancing access to mechanisation services, improving access to quality and affordable inputs, such as seed and fertiliser, and delivering efficient water resource management systems, including irrigation” are cardinal to alleviating poverty and reducing hunger.

According to FAO, at the time of independence in the 1960s, Africa was at the same level of mechanisation – if not higher – than most Asian countries. If the number of tractors in use is an indicator of how far a country or region has progressed in mechanising its agriculture, the developments in the last four decades of the 20th century showed significant changes in different regions of the world.

Comparatively, in Asia, the number of tractors in use grew by a factor of five between 1961 and 1970 – from 120,000 to 600,000 units, and then increased ten-fold to reach six million units in 2000.

The report stated that in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), the number of tractors in use increased 1.7 times between 1961 and 1970, from 383,000 to 637,000 units and almost tripled, reaching 1.8 million units in 2000.

In the Near East, the increase was similar to that in LAC, doubling between 1961 and 1970 (from 126,000 to 260,000) and then increasing a further 6.5 times to reach 1.7 million units in 2000.

But in Africa, while the number of tractors in use in 1961 was higher than in both Asia and the Near East (172,000 vs 120,000 and 126,000 units respectively), it increased very slowly thereafter, peaking at just 275,000 in 1990 before declining to 221,000 units in 2000.

It added that in 1961, Africa had 2.4, 3.3 and 5.6 per cent times more tractors in use than Brazil, India and the People’s Republic of China respectively, but by 2000, the reverse was the case. By the turn of the century, there were 6.9, 4.4 and 3.7 more tractors in use in India, China and Brazil respectively than in Africa, South Africa inclusive.

Similarly, the report says in 2000, tractors in use in Africa were concentrated in a small number of countries, with 70 per cent in South Africa and Nigeria. If South Africa is excluded, primary land preparation in Africa was estimated to rely entirely on human muscle power on about 80 per cent of cultivated land, with draught animals used on 15 per cent, and tractors on the remaining five per cent. In Asia, however, tractors carried out preparation on over 60 per cent of cultivated land.

IN Ondo, despite the so-called efforts of the governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, since February 24, 2017 to maximise agricultural revolution across the 18 local government areas, the state could boast of only about 41 tractors.

A source within the state Ministry of Agriculture, Engineering Department, who pleaded anonymity, disclosed that of the 41 tractors, only about 23 were functional, and the state government was planning to repair the others.

This contradicts “Youths on the Ridges,” an initiative of the state to engage 18,000 young farmers in commercial agriculture.

IN Oyo, between 2011 and 2019, the late governor, Abiola Ajimobi, made efforts to explore the agricultural potentialities of the state. One of such steps was the purchase of tractors and excavators.

On February 21, 2013, Ajimobi inaugurated 320 tractors to boost agriculture. The 320-model Massey Ferguson tractors were bought by the state government in conjunction with the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON). They were to be distributed to 20 local councils at 16 per council.

Also, in 2019, the late governor inaugurated 33 excavators purchased by the government to boost agricultural production, safety and rescue operations, as well as urban renewal across the 33 local government areas and 35 local council development areas.

The current administration, led by Seyi Makinde, has reiterated commitment to agriculture to reset the economy.
However, the state government said it was auditing all equipment purchased and acquired by the previous administration before taking any step.

Speaking with The Guardian, the Executive Adviser to Governor Seyi Makinde on Agribusiness, Dr Debo Akande, said the state government was still taking stocks to know the status of the equipment bought.

He said: “We have not bought any tractor since this administration came on board. We are just taking stock and auditing the ones bought by the previous administration. We are doing stocktaking of all our equipment all over the state to know the ones we actually need. This will enable us to know the available and existing ones, viable ones, spoilt ones and good ones. With this exercise, we will know the ones that need repairs, fixing, fittings, replacement and those we lack. We will then decide if we need to buy.”

CONTRARY to claim that the country is now self-sufficient in rice and other grains, a new survey by The Guardian has revealed that food prices remain very high.

According to FAO, global food prices reached a 10-year high in 2021 at 28 per cent. Ironically, FAO Senior Economist, Abdolreza Abbassian, said while high prices were expected to give way to increased production in ideal situations, abnormally high cost of farm input (such as fertilizer, land preparation and improved seeds and seedlings), the global pandemic and effects of global warming have dampened optimism.

Though data from the US Department of Agriculture shows that rice production figure for Nigeria in 2021 was 5.0 million metric tonnes, compared to 4.89 million tonnes in 2020, prices of various locally made brands remain exorbitant.

Maize production, according to the data, also increased from 10 million tonnes to 11.6 million, and wheat production increased from about 55 million tonnes to 99 million tonnes.

But FAO said Nigeria produces only 4.7 million metric tonnes of its yearly demand of 6.7 million metric tonnes of rice.

And based on zero forex allocation to importation of rice, it is assumed that the two million tonne shortfall in rice production is smuggled into the country.

It will be recalled that the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), during the rice pyramid carnival celebrated in Abuja, recently, claimed Nigeria was now exporting rice to other countries.

ALSO, farmers in Kano State have decried lack of modern agricultural tools, especially tractors and ancillary implements.

The state chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Abdurrashid Magaji Rimin Gado, told The Guardian that smallholder farmers found it difficult to cultivate larger hectares of land, leading to poor productivity per farmer.

He said it was unfortunate that members did not benefit from the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), even as he alleged that non-farmers were allocated 22 tractors in the state.

“Non-availability of tractors in Kano has been threatening food security because, at least, Kano needs more than 250 tractors for our farmers, with five tractors to each of the 44 local councils of the state.

“Three out of the 22 tractors allocated to Kano by the ABP were diverted to two north-central states, a situation that placed us at a disadvantaged position,” Rimin Gado lamented.

Speaking with The Guardian, the Director, Engineering, at Kano Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (KNARDA), Rabiu Karaye, said the state government was not in possession of any tractor meant for farmers.

He said, before now, the government procured some tractors for farmers, but had already handed them over to private companies that could render land preparation services to farmers.

THE manager, FarmLand Limited, Mr. Andrew Anom, who operates the only private tractor hiring company in Nasarawa State, told The Guardian that the company has only six tractors.

Anom said the company came into the state in 2021 and had been patronised by farmers.

“Nasarawa is an agrarian state with so many farmers in need of tractor services. We offer three main tractor services – plowing, harrowing and ridging,” Anom said.

He explained that plowing is N30,000, while harrowing and ridging is N25,000, costing a farmer N55,000 per hectare.

Also, the state chairman of All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Samuel Meshi, lamented the inadequacy of tractors in the state.

He revealed that non-availability of the farm tool had hampered agricultural productivity. Currently, the Nasarawa Agricultural Development Programme (NADP), a department under the state Ministry of Agriculture, said all tractors under the agency are dysfunctional.
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