The major obstacle preventing farmers, especially those in rural communities, from getting value for their produce lies in the activities of middlemen.
This, according to stakeholders in the agricultural sector, has been preventing many farmers from maximally benefiting from the opportunities in the sector.
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Observers believe that the middlemen are usually responsible for farmers’ low share in the value chain.
An agricultural economist, Ebun Adaramola, said, “The middleman can lie and take advantage of farmers who are unaware of true produce pricing in the market, and they then reap huge profits that the farmers cannot access.”
The issue then is, how can farmers bypass these supposedly important linkmen in the farming distribution channel?
Mrs Zaheera Baba-Ari, the Managing Director (MD) of the Nigeria Commodity Exchange (NCX), gives an insight.
According to her, the easiest step is for the farmers, especially those in rural communities, to organise themselves into groups of 10 or 20, approach a broker and visit any of the NCX’s trading floors, where they can directly sell off their produce at appreciable prices.
According to her, the NCX has 23 warehouses across the country where the brokers can help bring the produce for trading, adding that many more are in the pipeline for their easy access.
She explained that, “You know that a single farmer cannot trade on our platform, and again there is a certain minimum quantity of produce that can be sold on our trading floor, and that is why we always advice farmers to form themselves into groups of between 10 and 20, and then they get somebody, a community broker, who will come and sell their produce on the exchange.’’
The MD added that it was the fastest way through which farmers could be guaranteed good prices without anybody cheating them.
Aside this, Mrs Baba-Ari said farmers, through their groups, could also take their commodities to NCX warehouses for sampling, grading and storage if they were not willing to sell them during the harvest time.
She explained that, “during harvest, produce prices use to fall, and because some of these farmers don’t have the facilities to store them, the middlemen usually visit them even at their farms to buy them in bulk, usually at very low prices.
“When this happens, the farmers, through their brokers, can bring the produce to any of our nearest warehouse for storage for like three to four months or until when the prices appreciate. We will then sell the produce for them.”
She further said, “Farmers are still getting low value in terms of funds for their produce. It is not the rural farmers that are making these monies, it’s the middlemen, and this needs to be addressed if farmers are to make gains.’’
The MD stressed the need for farmers to take the issue of post-harvest seriously in order to avoid wastage and for them to meet standard requirements.
Some farmers, who spoke with our Agric Editor, decried the activities of the middlemen, who they said now go round the communities during harvest to take advantage of the farmers.
Sani Mohammed, a farmer in Niger State, said during the last harvest of cowpea (beans), the middlemen combed many communities to buy the produce at between N250 and N300 per measure.
The same measure, he added, they are now selling between N900 and N950 in the market.
Mallam Abdullahi Aliyu, a retired agriculturist, told Daily Trust that farmers might most likely not benefitting from the current high cost of food items in the market but the so-called middlemen or aggregators,
‘’Government must move in to address this in the interest of many Nigerians, who are struggling for survival under the rising inflation. Those in government must not erroneously think that the current situation is benefiting the farmers. With my experience, I don’t think so, it is actually few middlemen that are taking the advantage,’’ he said.