Local farmers in Katsina State have decried the escalating theft of farm produce before and during harvest courtesy of the lingering economic crisis bedevilling the country.
The pilferers according to the farmers were mostly women and children hiding under the mask of farm labourers.
Salisu Mabai, a farmer in Kankara LGA, said the thieves were categorised into two.
“There are farm produce thieves, mostly men that specialised in maize and in some instances soybeans and rice in large quantities. They usually operate in the night, early morning, or at midday when most farmers have gone home to rest. The other category was women and children that pretended to be farm labourers or scavengers of leftovers in harvested farms. They move in contingents scouting farms to pilfer the produce which they hide in sacks or rubber basins,” he said.
Mabai added that the situation worsened this year with the lingering high cost of living.
“The economic situation in the country has forced many people out to look for what to eat either legitimate or otherwise. The economy of the rural dwellers is so poor that they could not resist delving into people’s farms, all in the struggle to meet basic needs,” Mabai said.
Another farmer from Faskari LGA, Sani Garba Mairuwa, said with the growing activities of farm thieves, farming was becoming a difficult venture.
“After we finished the herculean process of production, coupled with the high cost of fertiliser, farm chemicals, and other inputs, on the eve of harvest we become overwhelmed with the activities of farm thieves. This year alone they stole about one-third of my maize before I hurriedly harvested it even before it properly dried. The high market price of the produce is also motivating the thieves,” he said.
Garba added that most farmers were between the devil and the deep blue sea as they had no option but to mount guard at their farms despite the security challenges in the areas.
“We have no choice but to mobilise and mount guard in our farms in the afternoon, midnight, and early morning. Some of the thieves strike during the early morning prayers when most farmers are concentrated in the mosques.” Said Sani Garba Mairuwa.
Farouk Abdullahi Funtua who has a farm in the Mairuwa area said communities in Sabua, Dandume, Danja, and Bakori have imposed stringent measures including fines on the culprits.
“Many of such thieves have gone to prison in Dandume, Danja, Sabua, and Bakori LGAs and if we are to be free from them we should unite and come up with stringent measures including a fine for each maize cob stolen by a man, woman or a child,” he said.