How dollar rush by farmers fueled fears of famine – Punch

By Anna Okon

There are fears of looming famine in the country. And this is not unconnected to the huge desire by farmers to earn dollars.

Recently, it was gathered that grains and other farm produce became scarce in the country after farmers decided to take their produce across the borders for sale to earn dollars, thereby starving the local market.

The President of the Poultry Association of Nigeria, Dr. Ayoola Oduntan, attributed the high cost of poultry feed to the scarcity of maize and soya beans.

He said, “The price of feed has gone up; and feed is the most important component of production. For instance, in egg production, the feed is the most expensive part. What makes up the feed is maize, 40-50 per cent; and soya beans, 20-30 per cent.  So, 70 per cent of the cost of production is made up of feed.

“Now that is the beginning of harvest, when the price of maize is supposed to be at its lowest, we are currently buying maize at N120,000 per tonne. Soya beans used to be between N80,000 and N100,000 per tonne; now, it is N140,000 per tonne. When it was N80,000, we thought it was too expensive.”

However, recently, the Federal Government came out to allay the public fears over famine, assuring the people of sufficient mechanisms to achieve food security in the country.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who gave the assurance, said the Federal Government had engaged in the buy- back of assorted grains under the Guarantee Minimum Price Programme for restocking of strategic silo complexes.

He also said that farmers in some states of the federation had already commenced preparation for the dry season farming to ensure adequate food security across the country.

He added that the government was poised to make farming an all-year business by creating dams and lakes in every part of the country to support irrigation system.

He noted that crops would thrive and yield better through the irrigation system.

He said, “Nigerians have no reason to panic; we have made arrangement for some states to start planting so that we have second crops by April.”

Ogbeh disclosed that Nigeria had signed an agreement with the government of Morocco on local production of fertilizer, with a target of one million tonnes. This would boost food production in the country.

He added that the introduction of soil-specific fertilizer application, developed by the ministry, would go a long way in increasing high crop yield.

According to him, a total of 30,000 slots have been allocated to the ministry under the N-power scheme of the Federal Government.

This, he said, would enable the people to be trained under the agricultural development programmes as agriculture extension workers and they would serve in their respective local government areas.

Ogbeh added that the ministry had acquired 110 various capacities of rice mills of 10 tonnes, 20 tonnes, 50 tonnes and 100 tonnes per day for distribution to cluster farmers to boost rice production and milling capacity in the country as a way of attaining food sufficiency.

The minister admitted that for the first time in the history of Nigeria, the country was witnessing strong purchase of grains from as far as Namibia and other countries, which signalled a challenge to the nation as well as a benefit to Nigerian farmers.

He, however, stressed that the market forces would be stabilised through an increase in local production of food commodities.