Fear of food crisis is heightening in Nigeria following massive floods that are ravaging crop farms in many parts of the country.
Many farmlands were reportedly destroyed by floods in Kebbi, Zamfara, Niger, Rivers, C/Rivers, Sokoto, Bauchi and some parts of Kwara State.
Rice and maize farmlands were most affected and farmers fear this could further hike the prices of the staple food in the country.
A Daily Trust market survey showed that prices of food items are already going up in the market.
In Kano, a 100kg of maize now costs N20,000, N22,000 in Benue, N24, 000 in Abuja and as high as N25,000 in Lagos State.
The same size of maize sold between N9, 000 and N11, 000 last year across the country.
Also, 100kg of local rice now costs N55,000 in Kano, N58,000 in Abuja, while prices of beans range from N22,000 to N24, 000 per 100kg depending on the market and state.
– The warnings –
The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) had warned that the current water level in the Middle Niger of the Niger Basin portends some level of concern for Nigeria as there could be a likelihood of river flooding in the states contiguous to River Niger.
The states, according to the Agency, are Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Nasarawa, Kogi, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Rivers and Bayelsa.
The Director-General of the agency, Engr. Clement Onyeaso Nze said the country through Kebbi State might be flooded beginning from September 6
Reports from Kebbi had shown that several hectares of rice farms were washed away by flood and similar incidence was also reported in some parts of Zamfara, Sokoto, Bauchi, Kwara, Cross Rivers, Rivers and Niger states.
The incident is already a source of concern for stakeholders in the food sector as they are expressing fears that if the ugly trend continues, there might be food crisis in the country.
In Kebbi State, over 500,000 hectares of farmlands were reported to have been destroyed by flood.
The Chairman of the State Emergency Management Agency, Sani Dododo, who announced the incident said rice farms accounted for about 450,000 of the hectares while the remaining 50,000 were for other crops.
– Farmers narrate ordeal –
It was reported that farmers in Kebbi State lost over N5 billon to the flood.
A victim and female rice farmer in the state, Lubabatu Bunza, said she lost about 16,000 hectares to the recent flood in the state.
Also, Mallam Isa Ahman, another victim from Patigi LGA of Kwara State, said early last month, flood washed away about six hectares of his rice farm and four hectares of his maize farm.
The farmer said he obtained a loan from a commercial bank and invested on the farm, saying it would be difficult to repay the loan.
Many of the affected farmers in Kebbi and Niger states said they got their inputs from the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme of the federal government and wondered how they would be able to repay the loans.
President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Architect Ibrahim Kabiru, said even though it would be difficult to ascertain the damages done to the farms by the flood across the country, the trend portents a great danger ahead.
He said the flood-affected rice, maize, sorghum and other crops in the affected states.
According to him, the situation was being worsened by the insecurity in the rural areas where the farms are located.
The farmers’ leader had earlier warned that bandits were preventing farmers from accessing their farms, which he said was a dangerous pointer to food security.
Mr. Mathew Ajayi, a food security expert told Daily Trust on phone yesterday that already the country was nearing food crisis as this could be seen in the skyrocketing prices of food items across the country.
“It is obvious that we are approaching a serious food crisis considering the rising prices of food items across the country.
“And now look at the flood ravaging the farms’ couple with the bandits chasing away farmers from their farms,’’ he said.
Alhaji Muktar Umar, a farmer and local rice miller in Sabo-Wuse, Niger State, told Daily Trust on phone Wednesday that the country might experience serious rice crisis this year because of the flood incidence and security challenges threatening the farmers.
“From my experience as a farmer, I know many people go into rice farming this year but the farms are being washed away by the flood.
“Many farmers can no longer go to their farms now, most especially here in Niger State,’’ he said.
– Buhari orders release of food items from reserves –
President Muhammadu Buhari said Wednesday that the flood disaster in Kebbi State had exposed the country to a major setback in the efforts to boost local food production.
Buhari, in a statement by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, expressed concerns over the heavy floods that took a number of lives, submerged thousands of hectares of farmlands and houses, destroying farm produce and personal belongings in the affected communities.
The president said: “I am particularly sad over this incident because it is a setback to our efforts to boost local rice production as part of measures to stop food importation.
“Kebbi State is the focal point of our policy to produce rice locally as part of this administration’s commitment to agricultural revival, which suffered relative neglect in favour of food importation.
“With the loss of six lives and still counting; thousands of hectares of land flooded and estimated economic losses of more than one billion naira by rice farmers in Kebbi State, we face a major setback in our efforts to boost local food production.
“This bad news couldn’t have come at a worse time for our farmers and other Nigerians who looked forward to a bumper harvest this year in order to reduce the current astronomical rise in the costs of food items in the markets.”
The president, while sympathising with the bereaved families and farmers affected by the devastating floods, assured that “we are going to work closely with the Kebbi State government in order to bring relief to the victims.”
In another statement yesterday by Shehu, Buhari expressed the concern of his administration about the sudden spiral of food prices at a time when the economy was already mired in a slowdown occasioned by the global coronavirus situation.
Buhari, however, assured Nigerians that the situation was transient.
He said his administration had already begun looking and putting in place measures to ameliorate the situation.
“While Providence has been kind to us with the rains and as such an expectation that a bumper harvest would lead to crashing of food prices and ease the burdens on the population, the government’s concern is that the exploitative market behaviour by actors has significantly increased among traders in the past few years and may make any such relief a short-lived one.
“This year has indeed tested us in ways that globalisation has never been tested since the turn of the century.
“These challenges have disrupted lives and supply chains all over the world and Nigeria has not been spared.
“The effect has been deeply felt in the delays encountered in the procurement of raw materials for local production of fertilizer (damaging standing crops before harvest) and the speculative activities by a number of rice processors who are ready to pay for paddy at any price to keep their mills running non-stop.
“But of all these problems, the most worrisome is the activities of “corrupt” middlemen (with many of them discovered to be foreigners) and other food traders who serve as the link between farmers and consumers found to be systematically creating an artificial scarcity so that they can sell at higher prices.
“In dealing with these problems, the administration has, in line with its ease of doing business mantra, avoided imposing stockholding restrictions in order not to discourage investments in modern warehousing and cold storage.
“The president has just approved the release of food items from the strategic reserves, including 30,000 tons of maize to animal feeds producers to ease the high cost of poultry production.
“President Buhari’s administration has raised some of these issues with the various food producer associations involved, particularly those of rice and other grains.
“With their cooperation, the high food prices should soon be a thing of the past.
“In addition, investments in the agro-allied sector by the private sector will significantly increase domestic production of farming inputs especially fertilizer, further crash prices, create employment and ease the pressure on our foreign reserves.
“One of these major investments is the Dangote Fertilizer plant, which is projected to come on stream by the 4th quarter of 2020,” the president said.
– Experts suggest ways out –
The National President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Arc. Ibrahim Kabiru noted that to mitigate the effect of these calamities on the food system or food security, farmers should be encouraged to embark on full-scale dry season farming, which could lead to all-year-round farming
He advised that government should expand the nation’s irrigable lands by investing more in water resources.
He also advised farmers to quickly plant alternative crops that require little time to mature in order to mitigate the crisis.
He said government at all levels could support such farmers with seeds and other inputs.
“Whereupon the time left for the rainy season cannot be sufficient for any crop, some form of compensation commensurate to the ascertained loss could be given to the affected farmers,’’ he advised.
The farmer’s leader urged his members to insure their farms, adding that the association is already working with National Agricultural Insurance Company (NAIC) to that all farmers insure their farms.
The women leader of the Kebbi State Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Lubabatu Usman Kamba suggested that the way out for some of the challenges was for the farmers to be provided with good knowledge of forecasting the planting season.
She said flooding has been the farmers’ biggest nightmare, adding that they could only be addressed with good forecasting knowledge on when and where to plant the crops, which she said was currently lacking because of the near absence of extension service workers.