Farmers and traders are facing uncertainty due to unstable prices of grains in markets across Taraba State.
Merchants and large-scale farmers who stored tons of grains waiting for high prices were disappointed as the prices continue to drop across the state.
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Daily Trust’s findings revealed that prices of grains are lower this time compared to previous years.
For example, last year in April, a 100kg bag of white beans was sold at N53,000 but currently the same bag is sold at N32,000.
Similarly, a 100kg bag of maize, which was sold at N28,000 the same time last year, is now being sold at between N16,800 and N17,000.
This reporter’s survey also showed that a 100kg bag of millet which was sold for N28,000 in April last year, is now sold at N22,000 across grains markets in the state.
Further findings revealed that prices of dried cassava and paddy rice are very low compared to previous years.
Daily Trust spoke with some farmers and grains merchants across the state on why the situation is different in the state.
A grains dealer, Haruna Mutumbiyu, told Daily Trust that there has never been stability in the grains business because there is no single commodity that sustains its price for two years consecutively.
He said the trend in the market is that if the price of maize is high this year, next year it could be beans or melon.
Haruna said those familiar with market trends usually shift their interest from one commodity to another yearly.
According to him, Taraba is a hub for the production of a variety of farm produce and that is why individuals and companies have made the state their main source for produce.
He said the main farm produce in the state include maize, paddy rice, beans, melon, cassava and tea.
Haruna said because of high yield of crops recorded by farmers in the state, there is always availability of farm produce at lower prices all year around.
In many farming communities in Gassol, Ardo-Kola, Lau, Bali, Karim-Lamido and Ibbi local governments, farmers require little or no fertiliser for crops on their farms.
A grains dealer, Alhaji Rabiu Maihula, told Daily Trust that major grains dealers from Kano, Kaduna and Lagos, among others, who have given money to their agents across grains markets in the state to buy grains are now licking their wounds.
The middleman said he and other agents purchased maize and paddy rice at the rate of N18,700 and N14,000 hoping to make profit but however they were disappointed because the price crashed to N17,000 for maize and N13,000 for paddy rice.
He said there are tons of farm produce stored across grains markets and in warehouses but prices were not very attractive now.
Rabiu said those that bought 100kg bags of maize at N19,000 a few months ago were forced to sell same at N17,000.
“Many grains marketers took bank loans to buy grains and they are now in a dilemma because of the crash in the price of the commodity,” he said.
He further said the market was flooded with farm produce because farmers in the villages brought out their produce when bandits started attacking farming communities.
Residents of Baba Joli in Bali LGA who were attacked by bandits recently, hurriedly emptied their stocks and brought the produce to the market for fear of more attacks and the possibility of the bandits stealing or burning them down.
This reporter gathered that attacks by bandits in some communities have also forced residents, who are mainly farmers, to empty their stores to the markets
Similarly, grains merchants from eastern part of the country and companies that purchased farm produce from Taraba have reduced their activities which is seen as among factors that led to the crash of farm produce prices, even though that of melon and soybeans still high as demand also remains high.
A female large-scale farmer, Hajiya Matan Haki, in the state who used to harvest up to 3,500 bags of paddy rice and 2,400 bags of maize yearly, said she usually sold part of her harvest and store the rest until May and June, noting that this year may not be as lucrative as it was for her in past years.
Matan Haki revealed that the practice among farmers is whenever cropping season begins, they bring out what they stored and sold and invest the proceeds in their farms.
She said the trend is that once cropping starts, farmers would bring out their stock of produce to the market and prices usually crashed.
According to her, the experience this year was different because the prices of grains used to go up shortly after harvest and will not come down until cropping started.
The farmer said the price of a 100kg bag of maize was sold during the harvest at N9,000 and it went up to N19,000 few months after harvest.
Matan Haki, revealed that many grains merchants, including companies that use to make bulk purchase of maize, paddy, dried cassava and soya beans suddenly reduced their activities resulting in the crash in prices.
But a trader in one of the grains markets in the state, Kamal Dauda, said for several years, the prices of grains were not that high until the federal government placed ban on importation of rice and maize.
“Before the ban on importation of rice and maize, the price of a 100kg bag of maize was between N6,000 and N8,000 while that of paddy rice was between N4,500 and N6,000,” he said.
He said, however, soon after the ban, the price of maize went up to N30,000 per 100kg bag, for the first time, while a bag of paddy rice also went up to between N15,000 to N19,000.