Nigeria will not experience famine but price hikes in food next year due to unprecedented pressures on Nigerian grains from West African countries and global markets.
The Federal Government had raised the alarm that an average of 500 trucks loaded with grains leave Nigeria for neighbouring countries per day through the nation’s land border. This according to government could trigger famine in 2017.
However, farmers who spoke to Daily Sun revealed that no amount of trucks being taken out of the country legally or illegally could lead to shortage of food but that the price of grains would increase by 75 or 100 per cent next year, as many Nigerians, including corporate bodies, embraced farming this year.
The farmers who said the impending food crisis will affect thousands of families throughout the country, noted that it has once again underscored the urgent need for governments to strengthen their social safety net systems to ensure that the rise in the price of basic commodities does not trigger an increase in poverty rates.
The price rises have been most pronounced with the cereal crops such as maize, wheat, rice, sorghum and millet that comprise the basic diet of millions of people around the world. They have also hit feed for cattle, chickens and other meat-producing animals.
The farmers said that it was obvious that Nigeria would experience scarcity of maize from February next year due to outbreak of maize disease called “army worm”, which ravaged so many farms this season especially those operating in the South West region. They also said there would be scarcity of soybean because Boko Haram has threatened the farmers who produce the commodity in the northern part of the country.
The farmers highlighted that the price of 30 tonnes bag of maize is now being sold for N110,000/N120,000 from N65,000/N70,000. Similarly, one crate of egg now goes for N900/N1,000 from N500/N600. This was as a result of the infectious disease in maize that brought about severe economic effects to the country’s farmers running into millions of naira. Poultry farm owners are lamenting the high price of maize in the market to feed their animals.
The price of wheat rose 150 per cent between 2015 and 2016, while rice increased by nearly 90 per cent. Prices of other foodstuffs, including vegetable oil, which went up by 95 per cent, and dairy products, which went up by 60 per cent, have kept pace.
Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, said in a YouTube message that Nigeria has huge harvest of rice and massive harvest of millet but is under pressure from neighbouring states.
He said: “We find now that people are coming from Algeria, Chad to load food from our markets. An average of 500 trucks is loaded per day. It is taking away the stock, which we need to survive for next year. We have to start buying up grains to store because if the rains finish in January, February to March before the next planting season, you may find Nigeria very hungry.”
Speaking with Daily Sun, the co-Founder and COO of Farmcrowdy, AfricanFarmer Mogaji, said it is erroneous for anyone to say Nigeria will experience scarcity of food with the number of people that went into farming this year. He said Nigeria would not experience food shortage but the price of food would be increased next year.
He said government must make money available for importation of more grains, especially maize, because Nigeria would experience scarcity of the commodity due to the disease that affected it, which he blamed on climate change.
Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Lagos State chapter, Otunba Femi Oke, said it is not possible to have famine because many people are into agriculture now, adding that with the current intervention funding, coupled with the one farmers are accessing, it is not possible for Nigeria to experience food shortage.
He added: “We want the Federal Government to assist us in the area of mechanised farming by providing bulldozers for land preparation, especially in the SouthWest region, because farmers are finding it very difficult to have smooth operations in their various farms. Tractors cannot even go into the farms except they use bulldozers because of bad roads. We want help in the area of anchor borrower programme; we still want the Federal Government to sensitise the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) and other agencies to come to our aid.”
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Universal Quest Limited, Sotonye Anga, said the issue is a reality that has both negative and positive sides, explaining that the negative side is that right now, Nigeria has not grown enough food to meet its local consumption demand.
As a result of that, he said if government does not checkmate what is available, Nigerians are going to face famine.
He added: “On the other hand, farmers need a robust market for their products. Every opportunity to ship out products within Africa is a welcome development. We should produce enough food to meet our local demand as well as our export demand. When we do this, we are going to generate a lot of revenue locally and also a lot of foreign exchange.
“So when you combine the local funding with foreign exchange that is generated, it will improve all economic indices and put us in a better shape because we need market to service and the bigger the market we have to service, the better. In a time of huge unemployment, we’ve got to channel our massive youth resource to the farm, to grow more food because there is demand for food and this demand will continue to increase within Nigeria and across Africa, and of course, in Europe and other places. So we should realise and understand Nigeria is a gift to the world and to this generation.”
He said there is need to inject proper funding so that researchers can develop better seeds, adding that government needs to revamp Nigeria’s agricultural mechanism and infrastructure irrespective of political divide for the interest of Nigerians and to unlock more funding and investment into agriculture.
He explained: “Nigeria as a country needs to really rethink of entire agriculture mechanism so that at the end of the day, the country will be the winner and will be richer and better for it. People will have more employment and we will be food-secure. At this moment, agricultural lending is still very high and access to credit is still very difficult. We need to put every resource on ground and jack up our production and when we do this, the market is huge across Africa within West Africa, East Africa and South Africa and when you go away from Africa, you talk about Asia, Europe and other places.”
Nigeria to export rice by 2017 –CBN
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said that with the progress so far recorded through its agricultural financing policies, Nigeria will be ready to export rice for the first time in 2017.
CBN’s Acting Director, Corporate Communication, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, who led a team of the bank to Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, to sensitise farmers on ways they could key into the agricultural programmes of the CBN, hinted that already the price of rice had started crashing, saying that in Ebonyi State, a bag of rice had come down to N8,000.
Hundreds of farmers who attended the programme applauded the initiatives of the bank, especially the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), promising to embrace it.
Okoroafor described the success of the ABP as huge and said by 2017 the programme would have bridged the demand gap of six million tonnes of rice annually.
He said the pilot project of ABP in Kebbi State, which saw 78,000 registered farmers cultivate an average of one hectare each, led to the distribution of one million tonnes of rice by the state.
He said with Ebonyi State already producing 1.2 million tonnes of rice annually and other states of Jigawa, Sokoto, Cross River, Anambra and Imo keying into the programme, Nigeria would be producing seven million tonnes of rice in 2017.
He said, “the ABP of CBN is not another talkshow. It is real financing for real farmers themselves not political farmers and it has started yielding fruit. We started the pilot programme in Kebbi State with 78,000 farmers cultivating an average of one hectare. The programme was to enable farmers plant three times a year, two dry season cropping and one rainy season cropping. Already, Kebbi State has distributed one million tonnes of rice. Ebonyi State has keyed into it.
“Ebonyi State is giving us over 1.2 million tonnes of rice in one year. They are harvesting now. They are bagging, milling and Nigerians are booking their rice for Christmas in Abakiliki. Abia State government has ordered rice from Ebonyi. Other states are keying in. In Jigawa, Sokoto, Cross River, Imo, rice is coming up. Nigerians are planting rice. You need to taste Nigerian rice. Make sure you do your Christmas with Nigerian rice and not the imported rice that is nine years old from Vietnam, Thailand and India.”
Umahi’s agric programme doing well –Ogbe
From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
Despite the prevailing economic problems bedevilling Nigeria as a country, Ebonyi State government seems to have taken its destiny in its own hands by redefining its history and future through the setting up standards that will drive its self-determination instead of endless wait and reliance on the federal allocation, now grossly inadequate to confront the conflicting priorities in the state.
Since assuming office on May 29, 2015, Governor David Umahi, has anchored his developmental master plan on tripod of infrastructural development, agricultural revival and overall development of all sectors of the state simultaneously.
Umahi believes that total revival of agriculture in the state would mark the beginning of Nigeria’s exit from the danger list of countries being ravaged by hunger.
He said his decision to revisit agriculture even before the Federal Government declared interest in it was informed by the fact that Ebonyi State was the leading food basket of the country in the first and second republics.
In the area of rice and other crops, Umahi lamented the criminal neglect of rice cultivation, which, he said, had been one of the things the state produced that served the entire West African sub-region.
However, Umahi’s magic wand in agriculture seemed to have come to fruition with the recent interest shown in the state by the Federal Government.
Speaking when the Presidential Committee on Rice Farming led by the Governor of Kebbi State, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, Umahi said it was no more news that Nigeria is facing another challenge of the impending food shortage arising from the criminal neglect of agriculture in the past.
Ebonyi State, to say the least, was one of the states hit by the present economic situation in the country. A state that has no other source of sustenance except depending on the meagre allocation from the federation account is bound to feel the hard bite of the present economic downturn more.
Umahi held that his determination to run an inclusive government where the people of the state are partners and participants in the governing process has never wavered.
In his own simple principle of self-determination, Umahi held tenaciously to his blueprint on revival of agriculture as the only panacea to food sufficiency and told the Presidential Committee on
Rice Farming that it implied the right to participate in the democratic process of governance and to influence one’s future politically, socially, economically and culturally, noting that it also embodies the right for all peoples to determine their own economic development through agriculture.
The Ebonyi governor believes that with the new step taken, which was greeted with ovation from the presidential team comprising Kebi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe and Central Bank Governor (CBN), Dr. Godwin Emefiele, there would be greater good days ahead in terms of food and other things.
He told the team that the general public, especially the people of Ebonyi State, are fully aware of the present severe economic circumstances in the country, arising primarily from the collapse of the price of crude oil in the international market and provided an alternative to ending the impending doom as total return to agriculture.
The bottom-line of Umahi’s explanation was his appeal to the Federal Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and CBN to help the state government in its efforts to revamp agriculture especially rice farming to enable it produce in large quantity for her citizenry and Nigeria at large.
He also appealed to the people of Ebonyi State to embrace his “one man, one hectre” agricultural policy, which he said was intended to showcase government’s readiness in the area of rice production, which he followed up with installation of rice processing machines in various parts of the state like Iboko, Ikwo, Ezzamgbo, Abakaliki rice mills and other areas.
According to the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Uchenna Orji, the state government, through the operation of ‘one man, one hectre’ has been able to revamp agriculture in the state and is one of the leading states in rice production.
He commended Umahi for his untiring efforts to redirect the people of the state to agriculture, adding that Abakaliki rice of old used to be the pride of the entire West African sub-region.
Orji held that with the recent development and interest Federal Government has developed in Ebonyi State and its agricultural policy, it will be in the interest of the people of the state if everybody adheres to the call for return to agriculture.
He expressed confidence that the present administration will play its part in helping farmers across the state through provision of enabling environment and improved rice seedlings and other crops to enable the state government achieve its set goal by ensuring that
poverty and food shortage are eradicated from the state.
“The state government placed much emphasis on agriculture as its major source of increasing Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to actualise this dream, the state government obtained a loan of N2 billion to boost rice production. The governor also directed all the 13 local government chairmen to provide 250,000 hectares of land for rice production in the forthcoming farming season.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, through the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, during their one-day working visit in the state, said it will, by next year, launch an agricultural programme known as Operation Ten-Thirty-Seven aimed at providing dams in the 36 states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory to sustain all year farming.
Ogbeh, during the one-day inspection tour of rice farms and mills spread across the state, said the Federal Government has placed much emphasis on agriculture as one of the engines that drive development.
He was accompanied by the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele,
and the Governor of Kebbi State, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, who is also the Chairman, Presidential Committee on Rice.
They visited old rice mill clusters in Abakaliki, digital rice mills with installed capacity of five metric tonnes per hour sited in Edda and Ikwo, Akaeze Rice Farm located in Ivo Local Government Area as well as Item Amagu Rice Farm in Ikwo Local Government Area which is about 275 hectares.
Ogbeh who was impressed by the level of rice yield in the farms stated that the Federal Government would rehabilitate Item Amagu Dam as part of measures to encourage dry season rice cultivation in the state.
On his part, Emefiele said the disbursement of funds to rice farmers under Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) would commence next year to boost production and solve challenges associated with poor funding in rice production in the country.
He expressed satisfaction with the result coming from Umahi’s agricultural policy and assured that the CBN would assist all genuine farmers across the country though the ABP.
Governor Bagudu of Kebbi State explained that with what he saw in some visited rice producing states, the country had already achieved self-sufficiency and should commence plans for rice export.